Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Elite Pitcher in the Making

I want to begin by saying that I am one of the biggest supporters of Phil Hughes, and have been preaching patience with him since spring training. I still do. I still think we need to be patient with Hughes. But I don't believe we need to be patient with him on the big league roster.

I want to be clear. Phil Hughes has the make up to become an elite pitcher in the future, but his growth has been stunted by being forced to mature too quickly. What I saw yesterday, and what I've seen all season, is a young pitcher with good stuff, but a lack of repetoire. His fastball and curve are major league ready, but that's only two pitches. He has not shown the ability to locate his changeup, and his slider, which is a new pitch for him, is not big league ready. What I saw yesterday, what I've seen all season, is a gifted pitcher weaving his way through major league lineups with 2 pitches. Its not his fault.

Last season, Brian Cashman made it very clear. Phil Hughes was to stay in triple A for the 2007 season. He needed to grow, develop his pitches, and face the competition there before he would move to the big leagues. However, he made just 5 starts at that level before injuries made it necessary to call him up. He was shaky in his first outing, but carried a no-hitter into the 7th against Texas in his second outing, before a hamstring injury pulled him from the game. After a long rehab, he came back, and pitched decently. His big performance was his relief of Roger Clemens in game 3 of the ALCS, where he was amazing. I understand why they called him up, and agree with it. He was tearing it up in triple A. But it didn't mean that he was ready.

What we are seeing now is a pitcher who has little confidence in his secondary pitches, because frankly, they're not very good. He's still working on his slider and changeup. Its not fair to ask him to toy with new pitches on the biggest stage. If you ask me, the whole point of the minors is to work on and develop your pitches. Because he was called up so early, he never had the chance to develop his pitches. He knows how to throw them, but not at a big league level. Right now, the best thing for him is to go back to triple A, and work on those pitches. He has enough natural talent to pitch well, and if he stays with the big league club I can guarantee that he'll have his moments. But the rough starts will far out weigh the good ones. The teams know him now. They know his fastball, and they know his curveball. They've scouted him thoroughly, and they know how to hit him. He's had one quality start all season. He pitched 6 innings of 2 run ball against Toronto. Since then, he has struggled to even qualify for a start. He should be taking these lumps in Scranton, not in the New York.

If they send Hughes down, I'm sure he'll be devastated. But its the best thing for him right now. It shouldn't be deemed a failure by any means. Sometimes you need to retreat before you can advance. I know people love this kid, and will argue to the death that he belongs on the big league club, but if you really want to see this kid become the elite pitcher he will be, then you need to let him go.

13 comments:

Amanda said...

nicely put! I couldn't agree with you more. I think he needs to go back down and work on strenghtening his pitches, and hopefully get a confidence booster. He is a good pitcher, just not quite ready at this level. It'll come soon enough though. Hope people give him the respect he deserves, because right now people are being extremely cruel to him. He's a smart guy and will be willing to do whatever it takes to perform at his best level.
The Yankees are a strong team, and eventually they can work through anything.

Quinn said...

agree completely, and i think his buddy IPK should be down there with him... they both are not major league ready.. the only problem is.. who takes those two spots in the rotation?

Bucky7588 said...

AMEN!

michael kei said...

I usually walk out of the room when Hughes or Ian give up a run. Sad and frustrating at the same time.

Roberto Alejandro said...

the question of who replaces hughes and kennedy if they both get sent down is a tough one. Rasner has been called up to replace the "ailing" hughes on the 25 man roster. Is Igawa a possibility? Karstens? hard to say. This should be an interesting few weeks.

raven said...

Just call up Patterson and give him a try. I hate to say this but I have little confidence in Igawa.

Fernando Alejandro said...

I have to agree, Igawa isn't an option.

raven said...

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Rivera's Cutter
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DMan said...

Hughes lacks confidence and he lacks the ability to recover after he gets hit around...

He's never had to deal with this. In highschool and in the minors, he's always been near unhittable.

He has to learn from this. Every pitcher at somepoint gets knocked around. They have to be able to rise above it. It's a mental thing... Hughes is just 21. He's still learning.

Fernando Alejandro said...

I agree completely, DMan. I just think the best thing for him is to take some of these lumps in triple A. If he was down in triple A he could throw his changeup and slider more and gain more confidence in them. This strained oblique thing, I really have a hard time believing that.

Fernando Alejandro said...

Raven, do you know if that site has an email I can contact them at? I like to communicate with the author before adding their link. I've seen the site before but never saw that there was a way to contact them.

raven said...

Sorry, I don't know, either. Maybe you can post a comment there.

raven said...

I won't walk out of the room when Hughes or Ian give up a run.
I just open my mouth and let out a heart rending scream whenever we leave one or more runners on base.