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.