The evolution of Phil Hughes as a pitcher has taken a major step forward thus far in 2010, as he has quickly established himself as a legitimate top of the rotation starter. One of the changes evident in his approach relative to his previous forays in the rotation is his willingness to attack hitters. Phil is not nibbling very much, and consistently challenges hitters. A study done by The Hardball Times confirms this observation:
There are twelve possible ball and strike counts. Out of those twelve there is one that seems to neutral, the first pitch, with five in favor of the pitcher and six in favor of the hitter. I based that on the wOBA and run expectancy of 12 the counts. The favorable five counts for the pitcher are: 0-2, 1-2, 0-1, 2-2, and 1-1. The six counts favorable to the hitter are: 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 2-0, 3-1, and 3-2. So using the pitch by pitch data from MLBAM’s Gameday, I can find the pitchers who have the highest and lowest percent of his pitches in a favorable count. The numbers are for this season with pitchers with at least 500 pitches.
Top Five Percent
Cliff Lee 55.1%
Phil Hughes 53.9%
Matt Capps 53.2%
Roy Oswalt 53.0%
Justin Verlander 52.4%
The only pitcher in baseball pitching from favorable counts more often than Phil is Cliff Lee. In the past, Phil would nibble at the outer edges of the plate, and put himself into counts where he would either walk the batter or serve up something that was easy to hit. In 2010, he is throwing plenty of strikes without being too hittable, and is thereby putting himself in counts where the hitter cannot sit on a certain pitch or a particular location. Phil always had the stuff to go after hitters with, and now he has the confidence to do so. If he continues to attack hitters, heshould be able to sustain his current performance.
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