Hughes’ Reverse Platoon Split

Facing a right handed hitter should be the strength of a right handed pitcher. A reverse platoon split is a rare find in baseball, and occurs when a pitcher has better numbers against opposite-side hitters than same-side hitters. Our very own Phil Hughes has spotted one of the worst reverse platoon splits in baseball. While lefties are hitting a meager .196/.250/.367 in 2012, righties hit .318/.358/.613. Although he has close to no split in his career, 2012 has been an odd season for the 26 year oldd, who’s had to deal with a number of mechanical changes. He’s progressively improved throughout this season, but one factor that remains is this puzzling problem against right handed hitters.

Phil Hughes Platoon Splits By Month 
Month BA (R) OBP (R) SLG (R) BA (L) OBP (L) SLG (L)
April .357 .400 .690  .290 .389 .613
May .410 .422 .770  .163 .217 .267
June .256 .289 .488  .210 .264 .383
July .258 .319 .500  .182 .203 .364

You’ll see a clear drop in all aspects of the batting lines once Hughes made adjustments in May and June. Losing the cutter in May, adding an 11-5 curveball, and dropping his arm angle in late June have drastically lowered offensive production, including from the right side. Right handers put up a May and April OPS of 1.151, which has fallen to .803 in June and July. While this is a large improvement, the number is well above his career average .711, and with the way he’s throwing the ball of late, you expect better numbers.

Hughes' Pitch Locations to RHH in April and May

When you consider the movement of a fastball from a right handed pitcher, you expect the majority of the pitches to be inside. At the beginning of the year, Hughes had great rising action on his fastball, but it had little horizontal movement, making many of the pitches straight. It would seem that the lack of horizontal movement that would typically jam a right handed hitter, forced him to pitch to the outside part of the zone. The results were pretty terrible.

Hughes' 2012 Strikezone Reports (Left: June/July, Right: April/May)

The charts above show the results on fastballs inside the strikezone to righties from a catcher’s perspective. On the right, for the months of April and May, you’ll see that Hughes’ four-seam and cutter were crushed nearly everywhere. Although the sample size is small, Hughes has much more success in the chart on the left, which shows the results for June and July. Specifically, he is beginning to throw inside more, and with a much better outcome. In fact, the pitches inside to righties have improved so much, they are are producing better results than fastballs away.

As I mentioned last week, the mechanical changes have increased the four-seam movement into right handed hitters. While the outcomes show that the new four-seam movement is very successful on the inside part of the strikezone, Hughes hasn’t made a particularly big effort to pitch in yet. If we aren’t seeing small sample size, jamming hitters could help neutralize same-side success. Not only will it encourage weaker contact and more whiffs, but I suspect the ridiculous homerun rates will slowly fall. Hopefully, this .412 wOBA versus righties has nowhere to go but down.