Pete Abe just posted a very interesting and very exciting item about Phil Hughes and a major adjustment he’s instituted regarding the execution of his plus curveball.
Hughes, known primarily for his exceptional fastball/curve combo due to the quality and command he possesses with both pitches, has been facing a new experience since breaking into the big leagues – adversity.
His curveball, which until recently had been a big breaker from the eyes to the thighs, ate up minor league hitters at each and every level. However, upon entering the majors Hughes’ curve did not dominate as it had because the pitch had too much of a “hump” and he may have been slowing down his delivery, thereby tipping the pitch.
For a long time many Yankees fans and baseball analysts [your humble narrator included] clamored for Hughes to throw a harder curve which, while creating less movement, would then be thrown on the same plane as his fastball and with a higher velocity.
Then came this:
If you watched the game today, you may have noticed that Phil Hughes had a nice, tight curveball. It looked different than the curve he used to throw and I asked him about it.
Hughes explained that he’s throwing his curve with the same arm speed as his fastball. So instead of a big loop (picture Mike Mussina’s curve), it goes to the plate on a straighter plane but still has some action as it gets there. It’s how A.J. Burnett throws his curve.
Hughes devoted a lot of time in the Arizona Fall League to working on that particular pitch. “It’s hard to change because you get used to throwing a pitch a certain way,” he said. “In games, you tend to go back to what is comfortable. But they’ve been staying on me to throw the power curve more. I have to trust it and I do.”
Should Hughes be able to develop this pitch by throwing it harder (mid-to-high 70s mph) while maintaining his arm speed and keeping his curve on the same plane as his fastball, he could obliterate AAA hitters this year.
Along with the development of his cutter and changeup, the curveball adjustment may also arm the 22 year-old with the arsenal he needs to stay at the major league level.
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