Are there tough times ahead for the Yankees’ fifth starter, Phil Hughes?
Well, not exactly, however, given a few of his underlying numbers on the season, it does seem as though Hughes is bound to regress a bit going forward. For example, Hughes currently sports a 1.44 ERA, but his FIP is 3.13 (xFIP at 4.24). He seems to be benefitting from the Yankee defense, allowing him to pitch over his head in his 4 starts, thus far (there is not a huge disparity between his ERA and FIP, but his ERA should definitely be higher).
In addition, Hughes BABIP, at .162, is well below the league’s .300 average. He can’t maintain such a low BABIP forever and it will soon inflate as the season wears on. In fact, the inflation could be brought on by an increase in Hughes’ line drive rate, as it is currently 12.1%, another unsustainably low figure (Hughes’ rate is the 5th lowest in the American League). Also, consider the fact that Hughes’ strand rate or his LOB% (left on base percentage), currently at 87.4%, is well above the norm, as the average LOB% on the season is 71.7% (it was 71.9% in 2009). Hughes’ LOB% should see a drop over the course of the regular season. When this mark levels off and fewer base runners are stranded, more runs will then score.
Still, although I am pointing out the obvious, that Hughes likely won’t maintain a 1.44 ERA all season, what we should expect going forward isn’t all that bad, really (not at all). Even with a regression, ZiPS forecasts Hughes to post a 3.76 FIP (4.29 ERA) going forward. I doubt any fan would complain about that (he would then end the year with a 3.63 ERA).
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