Hughes digs a hole in rotation battle

Here’s a look at Hughes’ other home run allowed:

The final pitch is a front-door cutter Hughes tried to run in on Howie Kendrick but, obviously, left too far over the plate. Kendrick capitalized on it, tacked three runs onto the Angels’ lead, and chased Hughes from the game after just 3.1 innings.

Look, obviously outings like the one Hughes had yesterday aren’t going to endear him to much of anyone around the Universe. Yes, as most observers have said, his stuff did look pretty good for most of the game, but “pretty good” and “most of the game” are somewhat relative terms, and Hughes’ big problem is that his mistakes were very big ones and came back to bite him in a big way. And whether or not he’s gotten his fastball velocity back into the range it needs to be in, he still has neither the velocity nor the movement on the pitch to be making mistakes up and over the plate like that pitch he threw to Ianetta.

The other problem Hughes continues to have involves putting hitters away once he gets ahead in the count. I actually thought this was a bit overstated yesterday, as Hughes was at least better about this than he was last season an in the second half of 2010 (or so it seemed) but he certainly didn’t convert outs quickly once he reached an 0-2 or 1-2 count for the most part. That really sticks out when you remember the way Ivan Nova worked through the Orioles lineup in his last start, getting five swinging third strikes and generally disposing of his opponents post haste once he had the advantage. Given that it’s Hughes who comes with the billing of being a power pitcher while Nova is decidedly not known for strikeouts or his swing and miss stuff, this discrepancy speaks all the more poorly to Hughes’ present arsenal/approach.

You hate to be too hard on a pitcher after two starts, especially one with the history of Hughes, but the simple fact of the matter is that this small sample is going to matter. Andy Pettitte is making his second start with High-A Tampa today, and then figures to move up to face Double-A hitters next week. Michael Pineda is throwing off of a mound now, as he works his way back from a bout with shoulder tendinitis. Both of these pitchers figure to be back in early-to-mid May, and while Freddy Garcia is still likely to be the first man out of the current rotation, the second switch is going to come at the expense of either Hughes or Nova. The Yankees certainly want to give Hughes every chance to succeed in the major league rotation given the potential he still has, as well as the fact that he’s eligible for free agency at the end of next season, but at some point present results matter too. Hughes has now turned in two less than stellar outings to open the season, while Nova was fantastic in his first start in Baltimore. The latter will get another chance tonight and, with another good outing against a lineup that Hughes struggled against the day before, Nova could really distance from Hughes out of the gate.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

5 thoughts on “Hughes digs a hole in rotation battle

  1. GabeLezra

    Some great points. The fact of the matter is that Hughes' fastball is simply too straight for him to make mistakes with it–it almost doesn't matter how hard he throws it. I just wonder whether he might need an attitude change: he could stop thinking of himself as a guy who will overpower you with the fastball and then drop the breaking stuff occasionally, and instead focus on getting groundouts, locating the fastball down, and using his breaking stuff to induce weak contact. Just a brainstorm, as I haven't really thought about it too much–he just seems like he's trying to pitch like Verlander when he might be better off emulating, I don't know, someone who pitches a little more to contact while still striking people out. (Again, haven't had time to think about/study this too much).

  2. What's not being duscussed enough – or even at all – is how well David Phelps has pitched as the long man, especially after Phil left the game. If there's going to be a discussion about who should be in the rotation, he needs to be in it as much, if not more, than Pettitte. I think Pettitte would be more useful as a lefty out of the pen. Yes, he's a crafty lefty who has tremendous postseason experience, but I'm not sold on him starting a Game 3 in the ALDS.

    • Jacques

      Pettitte can not be used as a Lefty specialist, as his arsenal doesn't contain a sweeping slider that will deceive most left-handed hitters. Pettitte made his decision to return because he wanted to start, not to pitch an inning out of the pen.
      You are right about Phelps, I want to see him start one day

  3. Hippeaux

    I'm a huge fan of Brien's new habit of posting strikezone plots that yield big homers. Awesome.

  4. Bill

    The rotation will eventually be CC, Kuroda, Nova, Pettitte and Garcia, with Pineda on call when someone gets hurt. Hughes future is in the bullpen, no matter what Cashman and Girardi try to sell us. His demeanor and stuff are so much better when he comes out of the bullpen. And Phelps is going to be a big time pitcher. Would anyone disagree that he's ahead (maybe way ahead) of Betances and Banuelos at this point?

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