Phil Hughes was a fantasy star in 2010 winning 18 games for the Yankees, but he fell flat on his face last year going 5-5 with a 5.79 as he fought a mysterious arm issue most of the year. Which Hughes will show up in 2012 – the borderline star of 2010 or the washed up nothing of 2011? That’s the question of the day.
You can read about his rotation mate in Ivan Nova’s Player Profile.
I’ll say this off the top, I wasn’t a fan of Hughes heading into the 2011 season. As early as April of last season I was telling people to be very nervous about Hughes (you can read my thoughts in the April 12th Mailbag). As I stated in that piece, Hughes was dealing with a mysterious arm related issue. At various points he lost 5-7 mph off his fastball and the team was generally perplexed. Tests were run, surgery was contemplated, but in the end it was determined that there was nothing structurally wrong with his arm. He was placed on the 60 day DL and worked through his issues only to return and injure his back. Ultimately the mph came back alleviating some concern, but his previous self never quite returned in 2011.
Hughes did pitch moderately better over his last 13 outings of 2011 with a 4.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 2.00 K/BB ratio, but those numbers are hardly imposing nor do they match what he accomplished in 2010 (4.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 2.52 K/BB). There is also this; Hughes was phenomenal in the first half in 2010 going 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 16 starts. However, since the All-Star break in 2010, his performance would relegate him to the waiver-wire in almost every league if not for (1) his name and (2) the logo on his jersey. Here are the poor numbers he’s produced since mid-July 2010:
12-11, 5.34 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 6.1 K/9, 1.82 K/BB over 150 IP
How bad are those numbers? A.J. Burnett, Hughes’ teammate on the Yankees and one of the biggest disappointments in 2011, went 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 8.2 K/9, 2.08 K/BB. Pretty close ain’t it? Again, I’m not talking about five starts, or 50 innings with Hughes, I’m talking about Hughes being a decidedly sub par hurler for 150 innings. That’s an awfully long time, an in truth, he’s been awful longer than he’s been good (remember he really only stood out as a starting pitcher in the first half of the 2010 season).
Looking at his career numbers, the picture doesn’t brighten that much either. His career 7.51 K/9 mark is is about a half batter above the league average, but that number is greatly enhanced by his work out of the bullpen in 2009 (96 Ks in 86 innings). His 3.18 walk rate is big league average leaving his 2.36 K/BB ratio as only slightly better than the norm which is about 2.10. His 70.4 percent left on base rate is smack dab on the league average. His .286 BABIP is just off the .290-.300 big league average. His 8.9 HR/F ratio is right there with the big league average that usually sits in the 9-10 percent range. His 1.08 HR/9 ratio, not surprisingly, is league average. Finally, his 0.78 GB/FB ratio certainly isn’t good an it’s well below the league average of just over 1.00. See what I mean when I write that so much of his value is based on 18 wins in 2010 and the NY logo on his jersey?
I will not be targeting Hughes in any league in 2012. In fact, I’ll be hard pressed to end up with him on my roster unless I’m in an AL-only league. He certainly posted strong fantasy numbers in 2010, but as I’ve laid out above, that was based nearly entirely on his hot first half. Over his last 150 innings he’s been a bad pitcher, it’s just as simple as that, and for his career the numbers show a replacement level arm at work. He might return to prominence in 2012 but it would be a bad move to count on that occurring.
By Ray Flowers