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Phil Hughes: A lot to be excited about

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 04:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 04: Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
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'The Phranchise' is having a tremendous season, but you can't tell from his ERA, which stands at a respectable 3.96 (102 ERA+). On a staff with three current and former All-Stars, two potential Hall of Famers and a former strikeout champion, Hughes is arguably having the best season of them all. He leads the rotation in several categories: BB rate, K rate (and hence, K/BB rate), and is second in WHIP.

The only real problem is the long-ball. Yankee Stadium's homer-friendliness is killing him. Of the 16 homers he's served up this year, 15 have come at home. That homer he conceded to Matt Joyce last week in Tampa? That was the first road homer against him all season.

The splits -

Home: 71 ip, 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 2.5 K/BB

Road: 51 ip, 2.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.8 K/BB

The average distance of his 15 Yankee Stadium homers is 379 feet (thanks, HitTracker). The average distance of all Yankee Stadium homers is 391 feet. Only three long-balls hit against Hughes have traveled more than 400 feet (and one of those was 401). He's been a bit unlucky because of the short fences in the Bronx.

Regardless, he needs to keep the ball down in the zone. He was the top pitching prospect in baseball after 2006 because he combined strikeouts, command, 'pitchability' and grounders. In the minors he induced about 1.5 grounders for every fly-ball. In the majors, it's been almost the exact opposite: 1.3 fly-balls for every grounder. Keeping the ball up in the zone does tend to lead to more K's (as we saw yesterday), but when those balls are hit, they can go a long way.