Last night was the first start under the “Hughes Rules” and it did not go well. Phil gave up ten hits, seven runs (six earned), with two walks and three strikeouts in 5.2 innings. Let’s examine his last start before the extended rest–6/19 vs. the Mets–and his start last night through the ever friendly Pitch F/X lens.
In the start against the Mets, Hughes went seven innings on 99 pitches which averages out to just over 14 per inning. Last night, Hughes tossed five and two thirds while using 73 pitches, again just over 14 per inning. Let’s look at what pitches he threw.
June 19: 71 four seamers, 2 changeups, 15 curves, 9 cutters, and 2 two seamers.
June 29: 49 four seamers, 2 changeups, 12 curves, 13 cutters, and 9 two seamers.
I’m assuming those two seamers are mislabeled cutters. One of my peeves with Phil this year has been his inability/refusal to mix in non-fastballs, but in the last two games, he’s done a much better job of doing so than before. I’m glad he’s been able to do that and I hope it’s a trend that continues. The changeup still isn’t prominent, but that he got two swings and misses on it last night is very encouraging. Hopefully that gives him confidence in it and he starts to throw it more, especially with two strikes.
In terms of velocity, not much changed. His average fastball velocity last night was 92.46. On the 19th, it was 92.12. For the season, it’s been 92.4. The time off clearly did not affect Phil’s ability to throw hard.
Let’s now to command of the different pitches.
The four seamer last night is the first thing I notice. There were many fewer fastballs that ended up near the corners than during the game with the Mets. A lot of them ended up over the heart of the plate and that led to Hughes getting hit hard. The location on his curveball, though, seemed better last night as they were more towards the bottom of the zone.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d be looking for when I ventured on this post, but I just wanted to look at Phil’s last two starts side-by-side. Honestly, in terms of the Pitch F/X, they don’t look all that different. His fastball location was a little off last night, though, and because of that, he got hit much harder against the Mariners (ironically enough) than he did against the Mets.
In ending this, I do not think that the layoff had anything to do with Phil scuffling last night. Sometimes, a guy just doesn’t have it. Since that monster outing against the Tigers–7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K–Hughes has been struggling. Since that time, he’s got a 5.40 ERA, given up 10.43 H/9, and 1.3 HR/9. He has walked only 2.42/9 and has a 3.23 K/BB, though, so I’m not completely worried. I have every confidence that Hughes can regain some form and pitch better from here on out.