Phil Hughes was the key player in the Yankees' postseason run. He was overwhelmed by the Rangers, a good fastball hitting team that was also swinging some of the hottest bats the Yankees have faced in the postseason in the last 15 years.
The Phranchise has a lot of work to do in order to make himself into the ace the Yanks hope he will be- he needs to sharpen his mechanics so he locates his fastball more consistently,
His fastballs have been incredible weapons in 2010, and he put them to work by throwing his fastball or cutter a combined 80% of the time. I'd love to see him add a 2-seamer or a split finger fastball to his repertory- something that could induce a groundball when he needs it and help keep the ball in the yard.
But let's stop for a minute and consider the real differences between Phil Hughes in 2010 and Phil Hughes in 2011.
In 2010 Spring Training, Phil had to fight for a spot in the rotation. He had to stay healthy and stay focused in the face of an innings cap. Obviously, it helped that the Yankees learned a number of lessons from the public and painful 2009 Joba Rules disaster. But Phil Hughes proved himself all year long.
He was an All-Star, and while some Yankee fans would have preferred that AJ Burnett get on a hot streak and win a bigger postseason role, none were really nervous about relying on Phil Hughes in Game 2 or 3 or 6. Many even felt confident enough in Hughes that they were willing to start him on short rest in hopes of getting a 3rd start from CC Sabathia.
For 2011, the big debate is whether Hughes will be the #2 or #3 starter (and that really depends on the choices of a pair of left-handers, not Hughes). Unlike another young Yankee pitcher, there is no "back to the bullpen" chorus behind Hughes. He's ready for 200 innings and 35 starts in 2011.
All apologies to Robbie Cano, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner and Mariano Rivera; but Phil Hughes is the greatest success story of 2010.