Phil Hughes: 2011 vs. 2012

Yankees Starting Pitcher Phil Hughes won 18 games and was selected as an All-Star in the 2010 season.  But then his 2011 season was a disappointment going 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA.  Thus far in 2012, Hughes has almost pitched as many innings as he did in all of the 2011 season.

It looked like Hughes might be heading toward another season like 2011 after struggling in his first five starts.  In those five starts he went 1-4 with a 7.48 ERA while never lasting longer than 5 2/3 innings.

But in his last seven starts, he has gone 5-1 with a 3.50 ERA while never lasting any LESS than 5 1/3 innings.  That includes a start where Hughes gave up seven earned runs to the Angels

Hughes has had his ups and downs in his first 12 starts of 2012.  He is currently quite close to his innings pitched from 2011.  So I felt now was a good time to compare the production the Yankees are getting out of him.  Hughes was a former big name prospect, fourth overall on the Baseball America Top 100 in 2007.

Hughes has already pitched 68 innings in 2012.  He did not reach 68 innings pitched in 2011 until September 6.  He finished 2011 with 74.2 innings pitched.

It was well noted during the struggles of Hughes in 2011 that his fastball had lost velocity, specifically in the early part of the season.  But according to Fangraphs, Hughes has regained the average velocity that he had in 2010.

2010:  92.5 mph     2011:  91.3 mph     2012:  92.4mph

Hughes K/9 ratio has skyrocketed from 5.67 in 2011 to 8.34 in 2012.  Also his BB/9 has decreased from 3.25 in 2011 to 2.38 in 2012.  He was worse than league average in both of those statistics in 2011, while he is better than league average in 2012.

In 2011, hitters hit for a .277 average off of Hughes while 2012 hitters are hitting .264 off of him.  The 2012 batting average allowed is still worse than league average, .248, but still it’s an improvement.  The improved walk rate and batting average allowed has resulted in a WHIP improvement of 1.49 to 1.34.

Hughes is stranding more batters on base as well.  His LOB% has dropped from 65.4% in 2011 to 74% in 2012.

One troubling statistic about Hughes in 2012 is that he has allowed a home run in every one of his 12 starts.  He is allowing 1.99 HR/9 which is third highest rate of any innings qualified pitcher as of this posting.

Hitters are making contact slightly less in 2012, 83.3%, than they did in 2011, 86.6%, off of Hughes.  In 2011 his swinging strike percentage was 6.2% and it is currently 7.6% in 2012.

Over Hughes career left handed and right handed hitters have hit for a similar average off of Hughes.  Left handed batters have hit .256 off of Hughes, while the right handed batters have hit .248 over his career.  But he has seen opposite ends of the spectrum in both 2011 and 2012.

2011:     LHB:  .312 avg     RHB:  .234 avg

2012:     LHB:  .195 avg     RHB:  .352 avg

What the leadoff hitter of each inning does usually sets the tone for the rest of that inning.  Hughes has really seen an improvement here.  Hughes has allowed as following over the past two seasons to batters leading off an inning:

2011:  .300 avg     .372 OBP     .429 SLG     .800 OPS

2012:  .212 avg     .288 OBP     .394 SLG     .682 OPS

In 2012 Hughes has yet to allow a stolen base as well.  He allowed six in 2011.

Overall outside the rate of home runs he has allowed, Hughes has improved most areas of his game in hopes of a bounce back season.

 

*Note: Ralph Terry currently holds the New York Yankees record for most home runs allowed, 40, in a single season.  He did that while pitching 298.2 innings in 1962.  If Hughes stays at his current rate of 1.99 HR/9 allowed he will tie that record at 181.1 innings pitched.

**Note about the Note:  Ralph Terry ended that 1962 season with a 23-12 record and 3.19 ERA on his way to being named an All-Star, winning the 1962 World Series MVP, and being 14th in regular season MVP voting.

 

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A.J. Burnett’s Comeback Season

On February 19 the New York Yankees traded A.J. Burnett and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor league RHP Diego Moreno and minor league OF Exicardo Cayones.  The Yankees came into the 2012 season thinking they had plenty of pitching depth, and with Burnett’s struggles over the past two seasons (21-26, 5.20 ERA) he became the odd man out.

Given he has only made five starts in his new home in 2012, Burnett has outside of one start great numbers.  The following table shows his total numbers with the Yankees and his first five starts with the Pirates.

Year Tm W L ERA G GS CG SHO IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 PIT 1 2 5.12 5 5 0 0 31.2 33 18 18 3 7 31 1.263 9.4 0.9 2.0 8.8 4.43
NYY (3 yrs) 34 35 4.79 99 98 2 0 584.0 587 332 311 81 258 513 1.447 9.0 1.2 4.0 7.9 1.99
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2012.

Your numbers say what you have done.  It is what you are at a certain spot in time, but when summed up it does not always tell the whole story.  Burenett has not pitched a full season yet so the the full sample size can be easily effected by one outcome.  Here is Burnett’s 2012 game log:

Rk Date Tm Opp Rslt Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR HBP ERA BF Pit Str StL StS GB FB LD PU GSc SB CS AB 2B 3B GDP
1 Apr 21 PIT STL W,2-0 W(1-0) 7.0 3 0 0 2 7 0 0 0.00 25 76 53 15 7 10 6 4 0 76 0 0 23 0 0 1
2 Apr 27 PIT @ ATL L,1-6 L(1-1) 6.0 6 2 2 3 8 0 0 1.38 27 94 57 15 12 6 10 6 1 57 1 0 23 0 0 0
3 May 2 PIT @ STL L,3-12 L(1-2) 2.2 12 12 12 1 2 2 1 8.04 22 72 41 10 6 10 8 6 0 -13 1 0 19 0 1 1
4 May 8 PIT WSN W,5-4 8.0 6 2 2 1 10 1 0 6.08 29 93 64 20 14 12 6 4 0 71 0 0 28 1 0 2
5 May 13 PIT HOU W,3-2 8.0 6 2 2 0 4 0 0 5.12 30 103 73 15 9 14 12 2 2 66 0 0 30 1 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2012.

On May 2, 2012 he was not good.  He allowed 12 earned runs while only getting 7 outs.  Other than that start, all his other starts have been quality starts.  Also when you take that one start out of the equation his season pitching line would look like this: 29ip 21h 6r 29k 6bb 1hr (1-1, 1.86 ERA).  The Pirates should be happy with the 4.83 K/BB and 7.25 inning pitched per start they have gotten from him in those outings.

According to Fangraphs thus far in 2012, he is getting ground balls at a higher rate, 54.8 percent, than he ever did in New York.  His average fastball velocity has remained comparable to its average the past two years so it not like his stuff has gotten all of a sudden better.  It all comes down to control.

Burnett is currently sitting at an all-time low for himself at 2.0 BB/9.  The biggest difference in my opinion is that he is getting ahead of hitters at an all-time personal best rate.  He is throwing a first pitch strike 65.4 percent of the time.  For his career has thrown a first pitch strike 57.7 percent of the time.  That 7.7 percent difference could mean all the difference in the world for Burnett.

I Split PA AB H HR BB SO SO/BB BA OBP SLG OPS
After 1-0 3671 2983 806 102 610 646 1.06 .270 .396 .435 .832
After 0-1 3731 3435 700 69 223 1176 5.27 .204 .259 .314 .573
Batter Ahead 3193 2301 710 102 833 272 0.33 .309 .491 .520 1.012
Even Count 2907 2793 687 77 0 573 .246 .257 .383 .640
Pitcher Ahead 2412 2362 422 27 0 977 .179 .188 .258 .446
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/14/2012.

The average that batters hit off of him after a first pitch strike is .204, compare that to the .270 average after he gets behind 1-0 in the count.  The OPS difference stands out even more.  When Burnett throws a first pitch strike he allows a .573 OPS.  When Burnett does not throw a first pitch strike he allows a .832 OPS.

In 2012, hitters are 0-19 in the 0-2 count vs Burnett.  Baseball has its way of regressing people to their level over time so Burnett’s production should probably drop off, to a point.  With the statistics Burnett is putting up right now it would not surprise me to see an ERA at the end of the year in the 3.80-4.30 range (Especially if he stays in the National League).

If the Pirates fall out of the playoff race and Burnett is still pitching well, you should expect to hear his name brought up before the trade deadline.

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