Phil Hughes pitched a great game last night against the Tigers, going 6 shutout innings while allowing just 2 hits. This performance has moved him off of the bust pile, as writers in NY rush to fawn over a guy they left for dead a few months ago. I thought it would be interesting to see the thoughts on Hughes from 3 guys who have, for the most part, actually remained in Phil’s corner all along.
From Pete Abe:
If you were watching closely, Hughes had to fight to get command of his curveball. It was all over the place in the first few innings, even when he threw it for strikes. When he struck out Placido Polanco in the first inning, it was on a curve that was screaming to be hit.
But Hughes made the adjustment between innings, a skill that eluded him last season.
“He was getting quick with his lower half and I said something to him,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said. “He made the adjustment whereas last year he had something else in his head. He’s much more focused and confident now.”
For me, it was the best Hughes has looked since May 1, 2007 in Texas. He no-hit the Rangers for 6.1 innings that night and struck out six. But he also tore his hamstring.
The ability to make in-game adjustments is what distinguishes a good pitcher from a mediocre one. Most major league pitchers can succeed on a night where they come into the game with everything working. It is the nights where they need to tinker with their stuff and make adjustments on the fly that separate the men from the boys. This is something that Phil struggled with in the past, and it is good to see him learning how to be a real pitcher rather than a thrower.
From Joel Sherman:
You know what Phil Hughes looked like on Tuesday night? He looked like a guy worth waiting for. He looked like the kind of guy you do think long and hard about giving up, even for Johan Santana. He looked like part of the solution for the 2009 Yankees……
But there was an awful lot to like watching Hughes shut out the Tigers for six innings. First, give him credit for working his way back to this moment. He was just handed a rotation spot last year, spit it up and the Yanks reacted by filling up the five rotation spots without him. But he pitched well in spring training, better at Triple-A and tremendous vs. Detroit. Here is what stood out for me: His poise was overt. The final score was 11-0, but when Hughes was on the mound he was locked in a 0-0 game against Edwin Jackson. Hughes appeared focused and unflustered. He was simply executing one pitch after another, even when it looked as if home-plate ump Derryl Cousins was squeezing him a bit.
And in the blog yesterday I wondered about the slow development of a third pitch. But his cutter was very good Tuesday, especially in his ability to run it on the hands of lefty hitters. That made his fastball – which had strong carry through the zone – even more impressive.
I think Joel hit on the two key points about this performance: Phil’s poise and his cutter. In regard to his cutter, see Tom’s posts below for more on that. Regarding his poise, I think this was the most marked difference between Phil last night and Phil in 2008. He seemed like he was in full control all evening, going after hitters and refusing to buckle under the pressure of a scoreless game and a four game losing streak.
Regarding the Santana deal, I think we can close the book on the prudence of that decision. The Yankees gave up the chance at Santana so as to keep Hughes and Kennedy, and acquire CC Sabathia. While it is possible that Santana outperforms all three players, that does not change the fact that Brian Cashman made the right choice in refusing to complete that deal.
Finally, from Tyler Kepner:
Here’s a prediction. It’s easy to make now, after the last few games, but if you’ve seen them pitch and followed their stories, you believed it even before. Phil Hughes and Mark Melancon won’t go back to the minors.
From your lips to Mo’s ears.