Home runs are Hughes' worst enemy
Hughes has allowed at least one home run in 13 of his 14 starts this year, and in coming out on the business end of Wednesday’s 10-5 loss to Atlanta, No. 65 gave up a quartet – the first time in his career that four of Hughes’ pitches have left the yard in the same game.
That four-pack brought Hughes’ total of homers allowed this season to 19, six shy of the 25 he gave up in his only other “full” season as a starter (2010), and 26 of the 47 total runs Hughes has allowed have scored via the long ball this season.
To be fair, Hughes has been pitching much better after a rocky April; prior to Wednesday, all six of Hughes’ quality starts this season had come in his previous eight outings, with a seventh (two runs in 5.1 innings in Toronto on May 17) being narrowly missed, more due to pitch count (107) than “ineffectiveness.”
But once again on Wednesday, it was a foe he’s battled all season that did the right-hander in.
“He just didn’t have good location today,” manager Joe Girardi said following the game – and on a 94-degree day in a ballpark known for yielding the long ball, that’s often going to get you.
But all that said, Hughes is a fly-ball pitcher, and even though the home run total is a little high, it has to be expected, because looking at Hughes’ peripherals, it’s clear that it is in fact the long ball that is the only thing “wrong” with Phil Hughes.
Yes, his WHIP (1.34) is the rotation’s highest, and his 4.94 ERA is the biggest number there as well – but Hughes is second on the team in strikeouts (77) and second in the rotation in both K/9 and BB/9, and his current 22.6 percent strikeout percentage (which means that he strikes out roughly two batters per every time through the lineup) is second only to the 27.4 percent he put up when used mostly as a reliever in 2009 – so he isn’t having extended issues with control.
The big number, however, is his ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.49 – a career low that means, basically, that for every ground ball he gets, he gives up two fly balls…and, wacky bounces aside, you can’t give up a home run on a ground ball.
Numbers also say that Wednesday’s start was an aberration, one bad start in a string of good-to-great ones over the last six weeks. Hopefully for the Yankees that remains true, but going forward, don’t be surprised if Hughes’ long-ball tendencies continue; it’s simply in his nature.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES
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