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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From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-National League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
National League
1.) Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay
Cliff Lee
Roy Oswalt
Cole Hamels
Joe Blanton

2.) San Francisco Giants                                                               3.) Cincinnati Reds
Tim Lincecum                                                                                   Bronson Arroyo
Matt Cain                                                                                            Johnny Cueto
Jonathan Sanchez                                                                            Edinson Volquez
Madison Bumgarner                                                                        Travis Wood
Barry Zito                                                                                             Leake/Bailey/Chapman/LeCure/Maloney/Thompson

4.) St. Louis Cardinals                                                                  5.) Los Angeles Dodgers
Adam Wainwright                                                                                  Clayton Kershaw
Chris Carpenter                                                                                     Chad Billingsley
Jaime Garcia                                                                                          Ted Lilly
Jake Westbrook                                                                                     Hiroki Kuroda
Kyle Lohse                                                                                             Jon Garland/Vicente Padilla

6.) Milwaukee Brewers                                                                 7.) Chicago Cubs
Zack Greinke                                                                                        Carlos Zambrano
Yovani Gallardo                                                                                    Matt Garza
Shaun Marcum                                                                                     Ryan Dempster
Randy Wolf                                                                                            Randy Wells
Chris Narveson                                                                                    Carlos Silva/Andrew Cashner

8.) Florida Marlins                                                                            9.) Atlanta Braves
Josh Johnson                                                                                      Tim Hudson
Ricky Nolasco                                                                                      Tommy Hanson
Anibal Sanchez                                                                                     Derek Lowe
Javier Vazquez                                                                                      Jair Jurrjens
Chris Volstad                                                                                        Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy

10.) San Diego Padres                                                                     11.) Arizona Diamonbacks
Mat Latos                                                                                                Joe Saunders
Clayton Richard                                                                                     Daniel Hudson
Wade LeBlanc                                                                                       Ian Kennedy
Aaron Harang                                                                                         Zach Duke
Dustin Moseley/Tim Stauffer/Cory Luebke                                       Barry Enright

12.) Colorado Rockies                                                                     13.) Pittsburgh Pirates
Ubaldo Jimenez                                                                                     Ross Ohlendorf
Jorge De La Rosa                                                                                  Paul Maholm
Jhoulys Chacin                                                                                      James McDonald
Aaron Cook                                                                                             Scott Olsen
Jason Hammel                                                                                       Kevin Correia/Jeff Karstens/Charlie Morton/Brad Lincoln

14.) New York Mets                                                                          15.) Houston Astros
Mike Pelfrey                                                                                            Brett Myers
R.A. Dickey                                                                                             Wandy Rodriguez
Jonathan Niese                                                                                    J.A. Happ
Chris Capuano                                                                                     Bud Norris
Dillon Gee/Oliver Perez                                                                       Ryan Rowland-Smith/Nelson Figueroa/Jordan Lyles

16.) Washington Nationals
Livan Hernandez
John Lannan
Jordan Zimmerman
Jason Marquis
Ross Detwiler/Chien-Ming Wang/Luis Atilano/Craig Stammen/Tom Gorzelanny

The Phillies were a very easy pick as my number one best rotation in the National League.  There is lots of talk that they might have the best rotation in the history of baseball.  Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt would be a nice one-two combo if I offered it to you right?  Well that is Philadelphia’s third and fourth pitcher in the rotation.  Cliff Lee has some of the best all-time postseason statistics ever.  Also in 2010 he had the second best strikeout per walk ratio in MLB history at 10.27 strikeouts per walk.  I have yet to even mention the staff ace, Roy Halladay.

Halladay threw a no hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 postseason.  In Halladay’s first complete season in the National League he went 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA while throwing 250.2 innings, while never failing to get through 5.2 innings.  The biggest question in the Phillies rotation is the dreaded choice between Kyle Kendrick and Joe Blanton.   That right there shows you are in very good shape if it is coming down to them two for the final rotation spot.

San Francisco also has a very deep rotation.  Tim Lincecum is a 2 time Cy-Young winner in his young but successful career.  Lincecum is followed by Matt Cain in the rotation.  Cain has a career 57-62 Win-Loss record but yet a 3.45 ERA.  His win-loss  is not a clear cut sign of how good he has been in his career.  In Cain’s 170 career games started he has received little run support.  San Francisco batters have only gotten him a career 3.8 runs/game.  The major league average over that time is 4.7 runs/game.

After the Giants’ top two pitchers the rest of the rotation is filled out with Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito.  Sanchez might have led the majors free passes, but a the same time he allowed the least amount of hits per nine innings allowed.  Sanchez already has a no-hitter to his name and Bumgarner pitched 111 innings in his rookie season.  He was a crucial part of the Giants comeback to win the NL West.  In September he had finished the regular season with a 1.13 ERA in his final five starts.  Then pitched 20.2 innings with an ERA of 2.18 in the 2010 postseason.

Barry Zito also had a relatively good year too, although he seemed to fad in the 2nd half; his ERA in the second half of the season was almost a full run higher than his first half.  He did not make the playoff roster but still Zito is a valuable commodity in baseball (maybe not to the contract he has).  He probably will never gain back the Cy-Young winning stuff he had in the early 2000s, he is one of the most durable pitchers in the Majors.  He goes out and eats eat innings.  From 2001 through 2010 Zito never pitched less than 180 innings.

I have the Reds third.  If five years ago you told me the Reds would have this much young pitching depth I would have thought you were crazy.  The Reds are full of not just good pitching, but good young pitching.  I believe the Reds could become the dominate team of the National League over, whatever you call this next decade.  This is centered around all their young position and pitching players, who are already winning at a fairly young age.

The Brewers also acquired Zack Greinke which skyrocketed their ranking.  I believe Greinke is the 2011 Cy Young favorite in the National League.  They also have added Shaun Marcum to go along with Yovani Gallardo.  This top three is very good.  The Cubs also brought in Matt Garza; at the expense of their minor league hitting and pitching players of the year.  The NL Central might have the best group of rotations in the Majors at the top, if you take away Houston and Pittsburgh.

I also look for the Padres to pitch and field their way into playoff contention this year even without Gonzalez.  It might be hard, but I think this added pressure will help their pitchers pitch to a little higher level.  The New York Mets are a complete mess right now.  This does not exclude a horrendous pitching staff.  After Mike Pelfrey they will be piecing a lot together and it should be a tough year.

But no team in the National League is worse off than the Washington Nationals right now, starting pitching wise.  They do have a fairly decent bullpen on paper, but bullpen success is hard to predict on a team level.  Their rotation just is in shambles without Stephen Strasburg.  Even with Stephen Strasburg they would still be lower tier team in this ranking.  But I find it hard to believe that they will not finish last place in the National League East this season behind their poor pitching staff.

From Spring Training: My Pitching Rotation Rankings (1-5)-American League Edition

It is never too early for a little baseball talk.  Given that, I am going to rank every MLB team’s 5 man Pitching Rotation.  Some teams might have a dominate ace, but a poor three through 5 (Mariners), and others might not have had an All Star from their rotation, but depth one through five (Reds).  But I am trying to be as fair by balancing the complete rotation one through five in my opinion.
American League
1.) Chicago White Sox
John Danks
Mark Buehrle
Gavin Floyd
Edwin Jackson
Jake Peavy-Out until around Memorial Day

2.) Oakland Athletics                                                                3.) Tampa Bay Rays
Trevor Cahill                                                                                     David Price
Dallas Braden                                                                                 Wade Davis
Gio Gonzalez                                                                                   James Shields
Brett Anderson                                                                                Jeff Niemann
Brandon McCarthy                                                                         Jeremy Hellickson

4.) Boston Red Sox                                                                   5.) Los Angeles Angels
Jon Lester                                                                                        Jered Weaver
Josh Beckett                                                                                    Dan Haren
Clay Buchholz                                                                                  Ervin Santana
John Lackey                                                                                    Joel Pineiro
Daisuke Matsuzaka/Tim Wakefield                                            Scott Kazmir

6.) Detroit Tigers                                                                        7) New York Yankees
Justin Verlander                                                                            CC Sabathia
Max Scherzer                                                                                  Phil Hughes
Rick Porcello                                                                                  A.J. Burnett
Phil Coke                                                                                        Ivan Nova
Brad Penny                                                                                    Garcia/Colon/Mitre/Chamberlain/Betances/Prior?

8.) Minnesota Twins                                                                  9.) Texas Rangers
Francisco Liriano                                                                            C.J. Wilson
Carl Pavano                                                                                     Colby Lewis
Brian Duensing                                                                               Brandon Webb
Nick Blackburn                                                                                Derek Holland
Scott Baker                                                                                      Scott Feldman

10.) Toronto Blue Jays                                                            11.) Seattle Mariners
Brandon Morrow                                                                             Felix Hernandez
Ricky Romero                                                                                 Jason Vargas
Kyle Drabek                                                                                     Erik Bedard
Dustin McGowan                                                                            Doug Fister
Marc Rzepczynski                                                                           Michael Pineda

12.) Cleveland Indians                                                            13.) Baltimore Orioles
Fausto Carmona                                                                            Jeremy Guthrie
Justin Masterson                                                                            Brian Matusz
Mitch Talbot                                                                                     Jake Arrieta
Carlos Carrasco                                                                            Brad Bergesen
David Huff                                                                                       Chris Tillman

14.) Kansas City Royals
Luke Hochevar
Vin Mazzo
Kyles Davies
Danny Duffy
Sean O’Sullivan

So why is Chicago my number one rotation and why is Boston my number three?  Especially since most people are in fact choosing Boston as having the best AL rotation!  Here is why.  Jon Lester may have my preseason Cy Young Prediction, but after that they can be extremely up and down at times.  Clay Buchholz has very good stuff, but he is still very young and I highly doubt he will repeat his 2.33 ERA.  He will still be very good and one of the better number twos in the AL, but I see his numbers slightly decreasing.

Josh Beckett is also a lot more like A.J. Burnett than people give him credit for.  Both when they get in trouble become throwers rather than pitchers.  When they do this they just start firing the cheese to the catcher and become highly predictable to the hitters, they also start losing their movement and control.  Beckett is still better than Burnett, but at the same time when Beckett gets in trouble he becomes very similar to his former teammate.

I also think John Lackey’s best days are behind him and I expect him to stay fairly close to his production of last year (14-11, 4.40 ERA).  He will still be able to get up and have a big day, but I believe him, Beckett, and Matsuzaka bring more of a name factor than they will production at this point in their careers.  Matsuzaka walks too many batters to be consistent enough, which just adds to how exceptional his ERA and W-L record was in 2009.  But eventually free passes will come back to bite you in the butt.  Tim Wakefield will be a serviceable spot starter like he has been, at worst, throughout his major league career.

But when I look at the White Sox rotation I see a very good top five.  Mark Buerle is a pitcher that any team would love to have, with his combination of pitching smarts and durability.  Also the fans like the days he pitches on hot July afternoons with how fast he gets the job done.  John Danks has surpassed Buehrle as the team’s ace.  These top two lefties are good, but probably not as good as that of Boston.

But her is the difference.  I see Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, and Jake Peavy being a much better three-four-five than that of Boston.  Peavy will be out until about Memorial Day, so the fifth spot will be up for grabs during Spring Training.  But he should be back for most of the season, if everything goes according to plan.  He will not be his old self that people remember him from in San Diego.  But I still think he will be able to pitch to about the 3.70 ERA area, give or take a little either way.

Oakland gets the nod over Boston too.  Their pitching rotation is probably the most underrated in the Major League.  Their 3.56 ERA led the AL in 2010.  This is 0.22 better than the second place Tampa Bay Rays.  I believe the Rays will be able to, repeat a very good pitching year as well, even without Garza.  They got the Cubs hitting and pitching minor league players in return for him as well.  The Rays might take a step backward as a whole this year, but they show promise to return back to their dominate self in 2012.

Just a few days ago Andy Pettitte announced his retirement.  Many people think this makes their pitching staff a huge weakness.  But while I still do not believe it is a strength, it really is not that bad.  CC Sabathia is a top tier MLB starter and I do not expect that to change in 2011.  Phil Hughes really could be a future Cy Young winner at the two spot.

After that is where the staff gets a little sketchy.  In 2010, A.J. Burnett became the first pitcher in Yankee history with 15 losses and an ERA above 5.00.  He did have a horrendous, he takes pride in his play and should come in ready to play in 2011.  He still has arguably the best curve ball in the Majors when he is on and throwing strikes to get ahead early.  That is his major problem, because a 1-0 and 0-1 count have a totally different approach to hitters and he is pitching on the defense instead of the attack to much.   I expect him to go about 13-9 with a ERA around the 4.50 area in 2011.

Ivan Nova is still unproven but I do not doubt his stuff and composure.  He looked like a veteran during his 7 starts in 2010, composure wise.  He appears to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher down the road.  But in 2011 I would see him as a very solid number 5.  But as of today it appears that he will be a number 4.  This is a little worrisome that the number four starter is so inexperienced.

Also the biggest story of the 2010-2011 winter was the “Where will Cliff Lee go” story.  The Yankees were thought to be the favorite, but after he left over $20 million on the table to go to Philadelphia the Yankees have been criticized for putting all their eggs into one basket.  This is somewhat true to a point.  With the retirement Pettitte, the Yankees are currently without a certain starter at the fifth spot in the rotation.  Possibilities include:  Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, Bartolo Colon, Mark Prior, prospect Betances, but the favorite as of now appears to be Freddy Garcia.  Garcia pitched a decent 2010 with the White Sox, but I do not see him as a long term fix.

The Yankees will probably use Garcia until the trade deadline where they will probably go after another pitcher, if they can stay in the playoff race.  Some not-huge name players I see them going after could include:  Fausto Carmona, Armando Galarraga, Scott Kazmir, Joe Blanton, Livan Hernandez, Carlos Zambrano, Brett Myers, Ross Ohlendorf, Aaron Harang, Barry Zito.

The Indians should probably be out of the race so they might shop Carmona.  Same thing about Arizona with Galarraga and Livan Hernandez..  Kazmir and Zito are on good teams, but both have underperformed their current contracts.  The Yankees could take on their salaries, while the Angels and Giants replace them with less money, and similar production.  Joe Blanton could be the odd man out in Philadelphia if Kendrick takes the fifth starters spot.  This would put him on the block.

Aaron Harang could be a small risk player to trade for from San Diego.  Brett Myers’ might be the only reason Houston has to trade him at this point.  They should fall out of the race, but they could hang around the NL Central.  He also just signed an extension.  Ross Ohlendorf, former Yankee, had a 1-11 record in Pittsburgh in 2010, but received poor run support.  His 4.07 ERA should equiv late to a better record on a better team.  He finished the year with a 2.68 ERA in 2010 in his last 11 starts as well.

Zambrano has worn out his welcome in Chicago as well.  Many people fail to realize how strong he finished the year too.  He will probably be on the block if Chicago is out of the race.  Maybe someone could get a bargain for his talent, because of his baggage.

Stay tuned for my NL Rotation rankings within the next couple days.

From Spring Training: First Official Post-My Quick MLB Early Preseason Preview:

Alright first of all let me welcome you to my new web site.  I hope you enjoy it.  I have linked out to some interesting web sites that I enjoy.  For my first post I am not getting into as much depth.  I am going to pick my division winners, dark horses, and a few other things.

Now lets get started!

AL East:  Boston Red Sox
AL Central:  Chicago White Sox
AL West:  Texas Rangers
Wild Card:  New York Yankees
Dark Horse:  Oakland A’s

NL East:  Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central:  Cincinnati Reds
NL West:  San Francisco Giants
Wild Card:  Atlanta Braves
Dark Horse:  Chicago Cubs (Note:  My definition of a Dark Horse is someone most people are not picking.  If I had to select my NL Central I would say 1) Reds 2) Cardinals 3) Brewers 4) Cubs as of today.  I am just saying I believe the Cubs have a shot at coming out of nowhere and maybe making a run and/or winning a Wild Card/Division.)

AL MVP:  Robinson Cano/Josh Hamilton….injury concerns about Hamilton so I am leading toward Cano.
NL MVP:  Joey Votto/Albert Pujols….whichever wins the Division so I am leaning toward Votto.

AL Cy Young:  Jon Lester…dominate stuff and chance for lots of Wins
NL Cy Young:    Zack Greinke…Dominate stuff, fairly weak hitting division, first year in NL so many hitters haven’t seem him live.

AL Rookie of the Year:  Desmond Jennings….Pretty much guaranteed At-bats with lots of speed.
NL Rookie of the Year:  Aroldis Chapman…Arguably the world’s hardest thrower ever…105mph FB & 91mph Slider. It’s his to lose.

AL Manager of the Year:  Joe Girardi…If he can lead the Yankees to the playoffs with a rotation of :  1) CC 2) Hughes 3) Burnett 4) Nova 5) Garcia/Prior/Joba/ Mitre/Colon/Betances/Banuelos you’ll have to give him props.
NL Manager of the Year:  Mike Quade…Chicago could make a big turnaround, voters like this.