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Hardball Times Breaks Down Phil Hughes

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They cover everything.

Using that Pf/x data that is built into Gameday and I'm so in love with (because it's an independent company recording the data there are no games being played with velocity or movement like on scoreboard radar guns), Josh Kalk has done some great work.

Click on the link for more nifty carts than you'll know what to do with.  He's the one that I think is most important:

Phil_rel_2008_medium

via Hardball Times.

That is an exceptionally small release area, about half the size of his release area in 2007.  While we normally say a repeatable delivery is a good thing, and the repeatability of Hughes' delivery is one of the things that made him a first round draftee, Hughes' current motion might be too repeatable.

His release point offers no variance for the hitters' eye-level; they know exactly where the ball is coming from.

We have already seen that Hughes' current velocity is near league average, but it also has been described as having late life, especially while he was in the minors. This could be a result of his lower arm angle, which would have produced more side spin and less back spin than the fastball he is throwing today.

Currently, Hughes' fastball is very straight, with only about 4.5 inches of horizontal movement in towards a right-handed batter. This is nearly an inch less than league average. His fastball does "rise" a bit more, checking in with about 11.5 inches vertical movement, which is about two inches more than league average. 

These, unfortunately, are facts.  The things we'll discover as Hughes inches closer to his September return are buried in each other:

1)  Are these facts the result of recent adjustments (perhaps following his shoulder tendentious in 2005?), and if so, can those adjustments be changed (unchanged?) to restore the late life on his fastball?  Would lowering/raising/ varying his arm angle be a key to improvement.  In my mind, this is the best-case scenario because it means that the wonderful things we've heard about Phil Hughes- the ace in training mantle he has worn- are not the products of deceptive appearances or hyperbole.

2)  Were those stories we heard just stories?  Is this it?  Could a straight fastball, a beautiful but ineffective curve, and spotty changeup and slider be all there is to Phil Hughes?  I don't think this is the case- not just because I'm blindly loyal to my Yankees, and not just because I've pinned years of hopeful expectation on Hughes; I don't believe this because guys who put up numbers like a 4.7:1 K:BB or 0.86 WHIP or 10.2 K/9 in the minors aren't <em>this</em> bad in the majors.  I know all about small samples and league adjustments, and acknowledge that Hughes could he turn into Jason Isringhausen, but Isringhausen was a valuable major leaguer- something Hughes has yet to be.