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.