Hughes’ fastball heavy approach getting the job done

The main culprit for these struggles seemed to be an arsenal of secondary stuff that was subpar at best. His curveball, in particular, was a very ineffective pitch, and Hughes was showing heavy reliance on his fastball. Since declaring he was going back to a “reliever” mentality, however, Hughes has managed to turn around a season that looked like it was headed for abject disaster, and has generally been a very serviceable starter for the Yankees.

Hughes methodology, however, has been pretty unorthodox, to save the least. Far from rededicating himself to his secondary arsenal, Hughes is throwing his fastball at an even higher rate than he was earlier in the season, a full 66.3% of the time according to Fangraphs’ pitch type data, easily a higher ratio than at any point since his initial introduction to the big leagues back in 2007. On the other hand, he’s also committed himself to his changeup more than ever, throwing the pitch nearly 10% of the time, and has incorporated both a 12-6 and 11-5 curveball, while eliminating the cutter from his repertoire almost entirely.

The results have been…interesting, to say the least. Hughes is still giving up plenty of home runs (1.77 HR/9), and his strikeout rate has come down to levels around his career norm (19.7%, which is exactly his career average), but he’s still limiting the damage in large part because he’s pounding the strike zone and limiting his walks (5.4 BB%, a career best). All in all his WHIP is a respectable 1.28, and his ERA has come down 4.23, which isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but remember that it also includes those early season struggles.

Is this sustainable? I don’t have any idea, and Hughes has been inconsistent at times, including failing to complete five innings in two of his last three starts. On the other hand, Hughes’ overall numbers since the beginning of May are perfectly satisfactory for a middle of the rotation starter, which is all Hughes is being asked to be at this point in his career.

About Brien Jackson

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’ fastball heavy approach getting the job done

  1. Sometimes I think Hughes doesn't get enough credit for his turnaround from the 2nd half of the 2010 season. Since June 1st of this year he has had 10 quality starts in 14 appearances. His record during that time 8-5 with 1 ND his ERA for that period 3.40 He's probably been the Yankees 2nd most consistent starter during that time, with Kuroda leading the way. Just saying a lot of fans are quick to jump on Hughes when he struggles but not so quick to give him credit when he pitches well. Just my opinion.

  2. Hughes has been awful…i'm done with him he's done nothing but regress every year. time to put a fork him and move on. last chance 'd give him would be in the bullpen. the pitching has to be addressed this offseason.

    • Um, Hughes presently has an ERA- of 100, which is exactly league average and, again, includes that awful first month of the season. If you cut out the first month entirely on focus just on the period in which he's throwing more fastballs and changeups and given up the cutter, he's been a more than serviceable mid-rotation starter.

      Also, if you think he's "regressed" between this year and last, I think you're working with an incorrect definition of the word.

  3. uyf1950 has it right. Hughes is not yet, and may never be, a number 1 or number 2 starter, but he has shown flashes of excellence that makes him a serviceable 3 or 4. He's 12-10 now, which means he's 11-6 since an awful beginning. With probably seven or eight starts remaining, it's not inconceivable that he could end up something like 16-12, which isn't exactly horrendous.

    George Steinbrenner did the Yankee fan base no favors with his mindset. Yes, we want to win every year, but there has to be an element of patience to make a team successful. At least this management group appears to have a far more sensible mindset than the previous generation, which unfortunately has been passed along to the followers who thankfully don't make the decisions.

  4. I've been saying all along when discussing yanks with friends at home:The original scouting reports and hype about Hughes when he was in the minors was that he had a great 12-6 curve with a mid 90's fastball. Over the last couple of years that curveball seemed to disappear,and now its back.This isn't a new style of pitching he's using,he just went back to what got him through the minors.