In my first post here at TYA, I was optimistic about Phil Hughes due to a relationship I saw between FIP and velocity. I don’t necessarily think that the faster he pitches the better he’ll be, but perhaps the relationship depends on good health or confidence. Regardless, we watched the right hander make his debut on Tuesday, and Hughes was hitting 93 on the radar gun.
As I speculated in my previous post, Hughes’ work at Athletics Performance Institute this winter could bump his velocity to numbers we saw the last time he worked out there. During the 2008-2009 offseason, him and Ricky Romero spent extensive time at API working out, and the results were very encouraging. PitchFx showed a 2.7 mph gain between an average 91 mph fastball in 2008 and a 93.7 mph fastball in 2009. He continued his work at API in the next offseason, as a starter he kept his fastball at around 92.5 mph in 2010 and had arguably his most valuable season.
“Throwing as much as I did in 2010 maybe I thought I needed more rest than I really did in that offseason, and maybe just didn’t push it as hard as I could have, and at the end of the day it falls on me and I paid for it with a disappointing year.”
Due to the increase in innings from 2009 to 2010, Hughes’ skipped working out at API last offseason, and when he showed up to Tampa overweight, the Yankees sent him to fatcamp. The result was shoulder inflammation, an 89.4 mph fastball, and an 8.79 FIP in his first three starts. After allowing his shoulder to rest, Hughes returned with a 91.5 mph fastball and a 3.72 FIP in the remaining twelve starts. As much as he disappointed last year, the 25 year old showed top of the rotation upside.
After hearing that Hughes returned to API this offseason, I predicted that he would come back with a vengeance in 2012. Indeed, all the reports are saying that his fastball looks very impressive. He showed some of his best velocity in years on Tuesday, despite some mediocre control, the fastball seemed to impress everyone from Cashman to Girardi to scouts to Phil Hughes himself. With the FIP and velocity relationship I found previously, perhaps it impressed me the most. His debut prepared me to make my first bold prediction of spring training.
ZiPS predicts Hughes to post a 4.84 ERA, a 4.45 FIP, and a 7.04 K/9, Bill James predicts a 3.71 ERA, a 3.77 FIP, and an 8.03 K.9, and if you thought Bill James was optimistic, here’s my prediction, 3.30 ERA, 3.40 FIP, and an 8.00 K/9. I expect the righty to build off of his second half of 2011, and with better velocity, post a better FIP than his 3.72. All signs point to a breakout season for the 25 year old, so here is my bold prediction. Phil Hughes will be the Yankees number 2 starter in 2012.