Hughes less than former self
September, 6, 2007
Phil Hughes' stat line from Wednesday night's start would appear to indicate that he's back to his pre-injury levels, but the view from behind the plate says that he's got a ways to go. He's working as a finesse pitcher, which isn't his game and for which he doesn't have the command or the feel. Before he pulled a hamstring back in May, Hughes would typically work at 90-94 mph with an above-average curveball with a sharp downward break. Wednesday night, however, his stuff was average at best. His fastball was 88-93, mostly 89-91, and it only had some life when he threw it up in the zone. He threw two breaking balls -- a soft, slow-roller curveball in the low 70s, and a shorter slider around 80 mph that he worked to bury down in the zone or below it -- and flashed a changeup, but none of those pitches were plus, and the curveball was absolutely below-average. Unfortunately, Hughes doesn't seem to have the feel for pitching to alter his approach to match his diminished stuff, although it would be unusual for a pitcher his age to have that. He spent much of the night aiming his fastball at the corners of the strike zone, missing more often than not, and he kept popping his curveball rather than junking it in favor of the slider, which was the better pitch on this particular night.