The mark of a savvy, veteran pitcher is being able to get through a game even when you don’t have your best stuff. Every pitcher will have to deal with that from time to time, and the top performers avoid the David Wells-ian two inning 8-run performances that inflate your ERA by making in-game adjustments that help them get through an evening when they have nothing. Last night, we watched a 23 year old Phil Hughes do just that. Some of the credit goes to pitching coach Dave Eiland, who saw Phil was off his game early and suggested a mechanical adjustment. NJ.com’s Marc Carig has the story:
Part of it was an adjustment. Sensing that he wasn’t on top of his game, Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland suggested that Hughes shorten his stride, an adjustment that catcher Jorge Posada said would encourage Hughes to smooth out his mechanics.
Said Hughes: “I had to do something because I was out of whack.”
The adjustment didn’t make Hughes’ outing any prettier, but it worked well enough to keep the pitcher in the game, which impressed Posada.
“When everything’s going good, everything’s bread and butter,” Posada said. “Today it shows you a little maturity, trying to stay in the game and give us a chance.”
It was obvious from the 1st inning that his velocity was down and his command was off. There was no blaming Home Plate Umpire Wally Bell, Hughes was missing badly with the fastball, curve, and especially the cutter, which seemed to be sailing on him all night. When a pitcher with Hughes’ stuff throws 106 pitches and gets only 6 swinging strikes, you know he’s way off. He only struck out 2 batters on the evening and walked 4, which is a reversal of his typical ratio. Despite this, he still managed to only give up 1 Run while getting his team to the 6th inning. Some of it was luck, Phil said the pitch to Adam Jones that generated the 5-4-3 double play with the bases loaded in the 2nd wasn’t where he wanted it, Jones just happened to roll over it. But luck cuts both ways, and you can’t only look at it from one side of the ledger. As shaky as Phil was last night, it was the bullpen that let the Yanks down last night. Phil Hughes is growing up right before our eyes, and I feel more confident than ever that we have a piece of our rotation set for many years to come.
NOTE-This looks like a really fun way to head to the stadium for anyone who works in Manhattan, but in April it’s still a bit chilly at night for me. But come summertime it would be a really special way to unwind as you head to the ballpark and/or impress a date. Beats sitting in traffic on the Deegan, no doubt.