2013 Statistics: 30 games, 29 GS, 4-14, 5.19 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 145.2 IP, 7.48 K/9, 2.59 BB/9, 1.48 HR/9, 1.3 fWAR
2014 Contract Status: Free Agent
Phil Hughes threw an awful lot of meatballs in 2013. His 1.48 HR/9 was the fourth worst in the major leagues for pitchers with at least 140 innings. He barely averaged five innings a start. Once again, he was unable to put hitters away despite frequently getting ahead in the count 0-1 and 0-2. He pitched himself out of the rotation (although briefly) in September, and his disastrous 2013 probably ended his seven year tenure in New York.
Hughes made his 2013 debut on April 6th after starting the season with an injury. After a couple of rough games to start the year, Hughes strung together a stretch where he actually looked... good? He pitched four consecutive games allowing two runs or less and pitched at least seven innings in three of those games. Three of those teams were potential playoff contenders. And after throwing eight shutout innings at the Stadium against the Oakland Athletics on May 4th, he had a 3.60 ERA and looked to be on his way to a successful walk year.
Unfortunately, that start on May 4th was the highlight of the season for Phil Hughes. From that game on Hughes struggled for the rest of the season, with his best games coming against the likes of the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins. Hughes seemed to get worse as the year went on, as he was lit up to a 6.65 ERA over 43 innings in the second half of the season. Batters hit .346/.390/.541 off of Hughes during that period, good for a .931 OPS.
In early September, Hughes was briefly moved out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen in favor of David Huff. Hughes pitched just one game out of the bullpen, though it should be noted that in that relief appearance he gave up four earned runs to the Red Sox while recording just one out. Hughes only missed one turn in the rotation, but that can be attributed to injuries to his potential replacements and the fact that Huff got knocked around for nine runs in his only spot start. At that point in the season, any trust Joe Girardi had in Phil Hughes seemed to be gone. Hughes did not make it out of the fourth inning in any of his final three starts of the year. In his final start against the Rays, he gave up three runs and seven hits in just two innings–a fitting end to a disastrous season.
This is a case where it's amazing what a difference a year makes. In spring training, Hughes could have been looking at a multi-year contract worth 10+ million a year at least. The Yankees were sure to give him a qualifying offer, and they might have even negotiated a longer deal for him to stay. But now, just six months and 145 innings later, much of that value is gone, and his career with the Yankees could be at an end.
It's difficult to put Phil Hughes' career with the Yankees into perspective. He certainly had his moments here. He had two very solid years as a starter. He made an All-Star team. He helped them win a championship with a dominating season out of the bullpen. And even in his worst times he still showed some flashes of the promise that made scouts think he could be an ace at the highest level. But when people think about Phil Hughes, they're going to think about how he was never able to really put it together and how it all fell apart for him in 2013.
Some team is going to take a chance on Hughes next season. He's still just 27 years old, and he's had major league success. To his credit, he doesn't walk people and he never has. He can eat some innings. And his 2013 peripherals were actually somewhat similar to his 2012 ones. His FIP and xFIP from 2012 and 2013 are nearly identical, and he actually gave up home runs at a higher rate last season than he did this season. The big difference was a .324 BABIP for hitters against Hughes, and that is very likely to regress some even if he were to return to the Yankees.
Another reason a team might want to sign Hughes next year–here are his home/road splits in 2013.
Home: 1-10, 6.32 ERA, .317/.355/.554 opponents line, 17 HR allowed
Road: 3-4, 3.88 ERA, .262/.321/.414 opponents line, 7 HR allowed
That difference is substantial to say the least, and he had a similar theme throughout his seven seasons in New York. A team with a pitchers park, maybe in the National League, could be interested in taking a flyer on Hughes hoping that their home ballpark can contain the long fly balls he allows better than Yankee Stadium did.
The Yankees have the option of extending a qualifying offer to Hughes, but it doesn't seem likely to happen. Hughes will land somewhere for a fresh start next season and while I wish him luck, I certainly won't be upset to see him gone.