Trading Phil Hughes: Where would he fit in?

Mike Stobe

Moving Phil Hughes would be a very meticulous process because you would have to determine what home stadium he would be most effective in. He's at the mercy of the fly ball, so any stadium that can make up for his flaws and turn them into outs is where Phil needs to go. What are his flaws, though?

Since 2010, Phil Hughes has the second highest fly ball rate (47.6%) and the fourth highest HR/9 (1.42) in the league. He has also struggled against left-handed hitters throughout his career. He might have a 3.99 FIP against righties, but he also has a 4.56 FIP against lefties. That's a huge difference in effectiveness. He walks them more (3.65 vs. 2.00 BB/9), but he gives up less fly balls against them (45.2% vs. 47.7% FB%) and the same 10.1% HR/FB.

The problem becomes clear when you look at his platoon and park splits. He has a 5.13 FIP against lefties at home, compared to a 4.58 xFIP (a stat that substitutes the pitcher's home run rate for the league home run rate so as to show how home run-prone they are or not). Meanwhile, he has a 3.96 FIP and a 4.58 xFIP against lefties on the road. Against righties at Yankee Stadium he has a 4.38 FIP and a 4.09 xFIP, with a 3.59 FIP and 3.94 xFIP on the road. Clearly, he is being killed by lefties and Yankee Stadium, so if you combine the two, it's like nuclear waste. Without Yankee Stadium he would be a decent middle of the rotation arm for a team in need of pitching.

According to Stat Corner, a site that records each stadium's platoon splits, Yankee Stadium's park factors for home runs is rated as 140 for left-handers and 105 for right-handers, with a score of 100 being league-average. If the Yankees want to trade Hughes or simply let him go after the season, he has to go to a team and a home ballpark that will be an upgrade over where he came from. Average out his home run splits at Yankee Stadium and 122.5 becomes the number to beat:

Team Stadium HR vs. L HR vs. R Average
San Francisco Giants AT&T Park 73 66 69.5
Pittsburgh Pirates PNC Park 78 69 73.5
Seattle Mariners Safeco Field 82 69 75.5
Los Angeles Angels Angel Stadium 79 81 80
Miami Marlins Marlins Park 80 80 80
San Diego Padres Petco Park 76 91 83.5
Oakland Athletics O.co Coliseum 78 91 84.5
Tampa Bay Rays Tropicana Field 86 88 87
Kansas City Royals Kauffman Stadium 87 88 87.5
Minnesota Twins Target Field 79 101 90
Atlanta Braves Turner Field 89 91 90
Boston Red Sox Fenway Park 78 113 95.5
Washington Nationals Nationals Park 95 97 96
Arizona Diamondbacks Chase Field 94 107 100.5
Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field 93 109 101

Of all the teams that have a stadium that gives up home runs to left-handed hitters at a below-average rate, it seems that the Giants are the best fit. If you exclude the Marlins, Rays, and Athletics based on their financial spending history, there are still 12 teams that Hughes could go to where he would have a better chance to succeed. Some have also said that the Detroit Tigers and New York Mets could be a fit for him, but their stadiums actually give up home runs to lefties at a (just barely) above-average rate (103/95, 99 average for Comerica Park and 104/95, 99.5 average for Citi Field). San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and San Diego might end up being the best places for him.

If the Yankees want to trade Hughes (and if they actually can get away with doing so) the Giants and Pirates are the two teams that are in contention right now, but can Brian Cashman make a pitcher with a 5.06 ERA, a 4.43 FIP and a 3–6 record look enticing to anyone?

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