Phil Hughes is twenty-two years old, let us not forget this.
The fact that people are saying Hughes is a bust at this young age completely baffles me. Especially because we’ve seen not only flashes of brilliance, but prolonged dominance. I’m going to give you a convincing run down of his career, thus far. The resume he’s compiled at such a young age is actually very impressive, and nowhere near being a “Bust”.
Minor League Career:
Innings Pitched: 310
Hits allowed: 207
Base on Balls: 71
Home Runs allowed: 10
Strike outs: 348
I know a lot of people don’t put stock into the Minor League stats, which completely escapes me. Sure, there are busts, but virtually every player who’s ever set foot on a Major League ball field came from the Minors. Almost none of them had numbers as impressive as Phil Hughes. Take a look at those farm numbers and try to comprehend how insane they are for an 18-20-year-old child.
Phil Hughes MLB accomplishments:
2007, as a whole, he went 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA. Not bad for a twenty-one year-old with the crushing expectations of New York. His first sign of brilliance was pitching a near no-hitter against a dangerous Texas Rangers‘ lineup, before being hamstrung(literally).
His most convincing stretch was September and October of 07.
Innings Pitched: 32.1
Hits allowed: 32
Base on Balls: 10
Home Runs allowed: 2
Strike outs: 18
Batting Average Against: .229
In October, his first playoff appearance ever, he was very impressive. He pitched 5.2 innings, struck out 6 and only allowed one earned run. Four of the innings he pitched, was in relief of Roger Clemens, who was getting slapped around on a day in which the Yankees could have been eliminated. Phil Hughes came out of the bullpen and shut the Indians down. Pitching down the stretch in September, when the Yankees were competing for a playoff spot, and then blowing the Indians away in the playoffs showed me what Phil Hughes was made of. He has composure and poise. “Moxy”
2008, Phil Hughes did have a disappointing season. But was it really his fault? He was trying to pitch with a stress fracture in his ribcage. Anyway, his first start of the season was very impressive. He pitched 6 innings of one-run ball against the Blue Jays. After that he had disappointing starts, mostly due to the ribcage injury. He was placed on the DL, went through rehab in the Minors(and dominated), then returned to the Yankees in late-September.
Upon his return, he made two starts:
Base on Balls:2
Home runs allowed: 1
Batting Average Against: .209
As you can tell, when Phil Hughes is healthy, he’s a dominating pitcher. Not just “good”, but exceptional.
Velocity is a huge arguing point against Phil, which is ridiculous. We all know he was touted as a power-pitching prospect, possessing a mid-90’s fastball. Well, it turns our that Hughes’ fastball actually sits from 91-93, and that he has to reach back for 94-96. So while he’s not that gas-throwing stud we had all envisioned, he still is a power pitcher and his fastball does have some zip to it. Some analysts and fans are acting as if he’s a junk-baller like Paul Byrd, and that’s just not the case. Remember, he is only twenty-two, with a lot of maturing to do and a lot of room to grow. By the time he’s twenty-six, he most likely will be sitting at 95 with the fastball.
Phil Hughes has also grown as a pitcher. His knuckle curveball has even more bite, his change-up has improved and he’s added a new cut-fastball to his arsenal. A good, hard cutter too, which sits 88-90 with a lot of late break. His four seam fastball has lateral left-to-right movement, while his cutter darts down and to the left. He now has the scissor effect. But the biggest improvement is his curveball. This is a nasty, disgusting, filthy, gross, hideous, horrible, unfair pitch. It is on par with Joba Chamberlain‘s slider. During his last start of the season, Phil Hughes faced the Toronto Blue Jays. In this game, one of the Toronto Blue Jays commentator’s said: “Good curveball there. Oooooo, Just like AJ Burnett‘s curveball.” That is one heck of a compliment to Hughes, seeing as AJ Burnett might have the nastiest curve in the American League.
For those of you who are still excited about Phil Hughes, you should be. He has shown, when he’s healthy, that he can completely dominate lineups. I truly believe this kid is a stud in the making, a front-line starter and a possible twenty-game winner. For those of you who say he’s a bust at age twenty-two, and that he’s not as good as Johan Santana, all I can say is Wow.