Phil Hughes, ah Phil Hughes. If you’ve followed my work for any period of time you’ll know my thoughts on Hughes. Here are some of my previous statements about the Yankees’ hurler in his Player Profile from last season (written on December 27th, 2011).
“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… 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.”
Has my opinion changed after what looks like a successful 2012 campaign?
In 2010 Hughes went 18-8 for the Yankees. He slumped to 5-5 in 2011 as injuries limited him to 14 starts. In 2012 Hughes returned to prominence winning 16 games against 13 loses. Of course those win totals are impressive, but you know me, wins don’t impress me too much. Let’s look at his skills.
For his career Hughes has a 4.39 ERA. The AL average during his career is 4.22.
For his career Hughes has a 1.29 WHIP. The AL average during his career is 1.36.
For his career Hughes has a 7.58 K/9. The AL average during his career is 6.89.
For his career Hughes has allowed 8.74 hits per nine. The AL average during his career is 9.05.
For his career Hughes has a 2.64 K/BB. The AL average during his career is 2.13.
For his career Hughes has a 0.75 GB/FB. There isn’t a single team in the AL with a mark lower than 1.04 since 2007.
Some up, some down for Hughes, but overall there isn’t a lot there that makes him stand out substantially from an average AL arm the past six years.
Let’s look a bit closer and take a look at his effort since the start of 2011. Over those 49 games (46 starts), Hughes has gone 21-18 with a 4.67 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 7.17 K/9, 2.90 K/BB. Other than an uptick in his K/BB ratio, again, nothing here paints Hughes as anything more than a league average arm.
‘But Ray, he was really good in 2012.’ Was he though?
Hughes: 4.23 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.76 K/9, 3.59 K/BB, 0.68 GB/FB
AL Avg: 4.09 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.41 K/9, 2.45 K/BB, no AL team below 1.14 GB/FB
Again, I ask you, other than the K/BB ratio, was Hughes really that good last season?
Let’s compare Hughes to himself.
2012: .552 WIN%, 4.23 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 7.76 K/9, 3.59 K/BB
Career: .591 WIN%, 4.39 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 7.58 K/9, 2.64 K/BB
So if Hughes isn’t substantially better than average, and his 2012 effort was similar to his career numbers… eureka. You have it. Hughes is a fairly average hurler.
To be fair, an I’ve mentioned this a few times, Hughes flashed an impressive 3.59 K/BB ratio. If he could maintain that level I’d have a lot more hope for Hughes. Problem is that mark is nearly a full batter above his 2.64 career mark. The main reason it was so high is that his walk rate fell to 2.16 per nine. That mark was 3.25 in 2011, 2.96 in 2011 and 2.88 in his career. He’s never been such a dart thrower before. If he can continue that… but that’s a big if.
The other factor that will likely limit Hughes no matter what is that sky high fly ball rate. For his career Hughes has a 46 percent fly ball rate that has led to a 0.75 GB/FB ratio (never better than 0.89 in a season). When you allow that many fly balls homers are sure to follow. For his career he has a league average 10.0 HR/F ratio, but the extra fly balls he’s allowed has still saddled him with a 1.25 HR/9 mark for his career, a quarter of a point high compared to the league average. It’s not a totally out of control number but it’s certainly elevated, and that doesn’t play well in New York where fly balls tend to end up in the seats.
I’ve probably painted a worst case scenario here. At the same time, I’m paid to keep it real. And the truth is that Hughes pitched well last year, not great of course, and that for his career he’s been a solid arm but one that is nowhere near capable of leading a fantasy squad. Hughes is fine to add to your club in 2013, he’s not likely to hurt you, but understand that you shouldn’t be sucked in by his win total, or the NY on his hat – he’s simply not that impressive a hurler, though he is a solid support arm for any fantasy club.
By Ray Flowers