Last night illustrates why I think the Yanks would be well served to consider trading Phil Hughes this off season, should the right deal present itself. I’m not talking about dumping him, but if I have a choice between building a deal around Phil or Ivan Nova, I’m doing the Hughes package even if it means giving up more elsewhere in the deal. Upton? Where do I sign? A solution at Catcher straight up? Sold.
Phil is the pitching version of the Yanks 2012 offense. He seems to allow most of his runs via the long ball, while giving up little else. Last night he gave up 3 HRs for a league leading 25 on the season, tying him with journeyman Jason Vargas. Other than that he flat out dominated the Red Sox offense, allowing just a walk, a ground ball single, and a ground-rule double while striking out five. Phil’s saving grace last evening was that all three were solo shots, which is something we’ve seen a lot of lately.
I’ve long been of the opinion that his 4 seam fastball, up in the zone, fly ball tendencies and handedness will always be a poor fit at YS3 and nothing I’ve seen this year has changed that view. In fairness, the 3 shots he gave up last night would have been out in all 30 parks according to Hit Tracker. That’s pretty standard fare for Hughes both this season and prior. Take a look at his 2012 HR distance chart:
In 2012 Hit tracker says that 3 of his HRs allowed would only have been out in Yankee Stadium. Three others would have only been out in some MLB parks (8,15,16). His 2010 chart is very similar, where if he was pitching elsewhere in a park friendly to his style one could potentially shave 5 or 6 HRs off his total. It must be noted that Phil gave up 25 HRs for the entire season in 2010 (6th in AL that year) a figure he is sure to surpass by a wide margin this year. The three Yankee Stadium HRs this year were two solo shots a 2-Run dinger by Chris Ianetta. Striking those from his ledger would lower his current 4.08 ERA to very respectable 3.79. The other three blasts that were in the middle in terms of distance accounted for another 5 runs. That means if Hughes was pitching in a ballpark friendly to a fly ball pitcher, he could potentially have a 3.41 ERA. That’s before we do the league adjustment, which is a standard .50-.75 off your ERA for players going from the AL to NL. So yeah, if you trade Hughes to a NL team he could become another 2011 Ian Kennedy.
But until Phil learns to generate ground balls, something he has never done with efficiency over the course of his 6 year career, then I think the smart move is to take the value he has reestablished this season and convert it to an area of need this winter. Phil has really been on top of his game this year, a whopping 19 of his 25 HRs allowed have been solo shots. Four of those 6 multi-run shots came in April, a month in which he had a 7.88 ERA. That’s not a coincidence. Of the 14R he allowed for the month of April 9 of them were scored via the long ball. On the season he’s allowed 61 Runs, 32 of which have been scored on long balls. If Phil isn’t sharp and allowing baserunners, he is always in danger of having his ERA balloon quickly to an ugly number with all the HRs he allows. That’s who he is as a pitcher, we’ve seen it happen across multiple seasons and the short porch at YS3 exacerbates the issue. I think Phil has lived up to the lofty potential he had as a top pitching prospect back in 2007, he’s just been a poor fit at Yankee Stadium. Entering his final year before becoming a free agent in 2013, in my view his best use would be to cash in those chips he’s earned this year rather than risk a repeat of 2008, the 2nd half of 2010 and first half of 2011. Be smart and get out while the gettin’s good.
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