May 242010

In my post from Yesterday about Phil Hughes’ lack of non-fastball pitches, Steve H. of Mystique and Aura posed a good question:

Do you think this is a case where Posada calling pitches would actually be beneficial as opposed to Cervelli? Posada is extremely hard headed, and he might force Hughes to use the offspeed stuff more, while Cervelli may be a little more deferential to the pitchers and their game plan.

Obviously, this interested me so I decided to use Phil’s gamelogs section from Baseball Reference to see who caught Phil when and then went to Brooks Baseball’s pitch f/x section to see how well Hughes mixed his pitches with the two different catchers.

Hughes has eight starts this year. In four he’s thrown to Posada and in the other four, obviously, he’s thrown to Francisco Cervelli. Let’s start, as we often do, at the beginning…

Date: 4/15
Catcher: Posada
Number of Pitches: 108
Non FB Pitches (%): 20 (18%) 15 CB, 5 CH

D: 4/21
C: Posada
NOP: 101
NFBP (%): 14 (14) 14 CB

D: 4/27
C: Posada
NOP: 109
NFBP: 15 (14%) 15 CB

D: 5/2
C: Posada
NOP: 97
NFBP: 14 (14%) 11 CB, 3 CH

D: 5/7
C: Cervelli
NOP: 100
NFBP: 10 (10%) 9 CB, 1 CH

D: 5/12
C: Cervelli
NOP: 101
NFBP: 11 (11%) 11 CB

D: 5/17
C: Cervelli
NOP: 104
NFBP: 17 (16%) 14 CB, 3 CH

D: 5/22
C: Cervelli
NOP: 117
NFBP 10 (9%) 9 CB, 1 CH

After breaking it down individually, let’s add it all up.

On the season, Phil has thrown 415 pitches to Jorge Posada and 422 to Francisco Cervelli. Out of those pitches to Posada, 63 of them have been non-fastball pitches (15.18%). Of the pitches to Frankie Blue Eyes, only 48 (11.37%) have been non fastballs. His total for the season is 111 non-fastballs out of 837 pitches (13.26%)

It would seem Steve’s casual observation is right: when Posada was catching, Phil Hughes threw more curveballs and changeups. Now, this is a very elementary study. I didn’t adjust for the teams/batters Hughes faced. Perhaps those starts with Cervelli behind the dish, his last four starts, have featured teams that can be attacked with just a fastball. I’m also, so far, conducting this in a vacuum, comparing Phil to nobody. So, I’m going to look at CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and Javier Vazquez to see their non-fastball percentages.

CC: 55.3 % non-fastball (includes sinkers, sliders, changeups, and curveballs)
A.J.: 25.1 % non-fastball (includes curves and changeups)
Andy: 20% non-fastball (includes curves and changeups)
Javy: 52.5% non-fastball (includes curves, sliders, changeups)

What we’ve seen with our eyes is definitely backed up by the numbers. Phil Hughes does not throw his non-fastball pitches nearly as much as his teammates. This problem also seems to be compounded when Francisco Cervelli is catching. If the two of them don’t start mixing pitches soon, Phil’s going to start to get hit around. That’s not going to be good for anybody.

2 Responses to “Following Up on Phil”

  1. Matt, interesting piece. This type of stuff always intrigues me. Any idea as to cutter percentages between the two catchers for Hughes? Is there a difference there or nah? Also, I agree with both you and Steve, it would definitely be nice to see Hughes whip out a few more curveballs going forward. I understand that the cutter might be his best pitch, but right now he’s having trouble with it, so maybe using a few of his other pitches would do him some good.  (Quote)

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  2. Damn, shooting from the hip sometimes pays off. Nice work and thanks for the link. It may be completely coincidental, but still interesting that the (limited) data backs it up.  (Quote)

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