The random events of bad pitching

One of the oft-forgotten things here is that pitchers make bad pitches every game. Let’s take a quick look at Brooks Baseball‘s C.J. Wilson‘s chart for the day:

There are a large amount of Wilson pitches left in the middle of the zone, are there not? Yet, C.J. Wilson had a great day and Phil Hughes had a terrible one. There are so many variables that go into an outing that it becomes difficult to point to one and say, yes, this is why Phil Hughes got pummeled. There are pitch sequences, pitch movement, when a batter fouls off a good pitch to hit and when he doesn’t, where a batted ball ends up in play, where the fielders play against a batter and so on. One of the things said often is that Phil Hughes lacks movement on his fastball. I do not dispute this. Hughes’ four-seam fastball had 4.93 inches of horizontal movement on average on Saturday. He averaged about 92 MPH on the pitch. C.J. Wilson averaged slightly less in the MPH category with his four-seam fastball and averaged 5.03 inches of horizontal movement. Not much different, right? Both pitchers had nearly the same number of swinging strikes. And yet Wilson was brilliant and Hughes was not.

The random events here are that the Angels hit some of Hughes’ bad pitches into the seats. The Yankees did not do anything with Wilson’s bad pitches. There are things to think about for sure. Is Hughes tipping his pitches? Does his pattern or pitch sequence get too similar and easy to understand? I’m not smart enough to know the answers. What is readily apparent is that Wilson’s repertoire is much more varied. Batters cannot simply wait for a fastball with Wilson as Wilson mixes in all his pitches really well. Hughes threw his four-seamer 48 times out of 84 pitches. And maybe that is the difference.

The facts are that Phil Hughes has made two starts and neither have gone well while C.J. Wilson has made two starts and both have gone really well. Wilson has a guaranteed spot to make his thirty-plus starts and have random events not go his way once in a while. Phil Hughes does not. Phil Hughes will not have a chance to have random events go his way. There are too many other options. File that under the “life stinks” category for him. If Hughes does not have a good outing soon, then he will lose his opportunity altogether.

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

5 thoughts on “The random events of bad pitching

  1. BrienJackson

    I would say it isn't just the location of the pitch, but the lack of movement on the fastball combined with the location that hurts Phil. By contrast, someone like Nova or Kuroda might get away with a similar location mistake more often because their fastball has natural sink to it.

    • williamjtasker

      Yeah, I agree.

  2. mcmastro

    I wonder if he needs to take a tick off the heat in order to generate some movement?

  3. roadrider

    I agree with the comments on the lack of movement on Hughes' FB. I'm really not an expert so i may be way off base on this but even the CB that have a lot of break on them seem to roll up there. But to me the big issue is Hughes' ability, or lack of same, to put guys away when he gets ahead in the count, He did get a good number of Ks for the small number of IP but it seemed that he also got hurt badly but guys he was ahead on 0-2 or 1-2.

  4. Mike

    Something that might make for an interesting graph/plot is location of Hughes' pitches with 2 strikes compared to someone that can "put batters away."

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