With a 161.2 IP this year, Hughes is on the brink of surpassing twice the innings he threw last season. A little less than two weeks ago, I wrote about how Hughes’ velocity trends. Examining his longterm PITCHf/x numbers this season, he’s shown a constant loss of spin rotation and velocity on his fastball.
Hughes makes his living off the fastball, throwing the pitch 66.4% of the time this season. Without velocity and spin, how will Hughes pitch as games become even more important this September? They’ll probably look just like Sunday’s game.
He started out strong in this game, working his 92 mph fastball, his slider against righties, and a nice changeup to lefties. Through his first 4.0 innings, he allowed just two singles, and four strikeouts. His velocity started to dip in the 5th inning, right around the dip you see after pitch #60.
It may have been the first significant hit of the game for the Orioles, but this 437 foot homerun came off a fastball that widely missed its location. It was followed up by two hard hits from Chris Davis and Nick Markakis in that same inning. When Hughes came out in the 6th, he was throwing just an 88 mph fastball, and only one pitch in the first at bat went where he wanted it.
After what happened in the last inning, combined with the fact that these pitches are barely hitting 90 and not even close to his intended location, you’d think Girardi would get someone up and ready to relieve with the middle of the order up. Unfortunately, the manager left Hughes in to face Adam Jones, who singled on a line drive off a four-seam fastball at 89.7 mph. Matt Wieters come to the plate, and yet again Girardi sticks with his right hander. Wieters singled on a line drive as well, off a 91.0 mph four-seam.
With the lead still intact, Mark Reynolds up again, that guy who just hit a 437 foot homerun, and Hughes sporting a .974 OPS to right handed batters this year, surely Girardi would pull his starter.
Wrong. Hughes clearly didn’t want to throw the fastball, which was smacked around for line drives that inning. Instead, he gave up a three run homerun off a hanging curveball. As much as this is Girardi’s fault for leaving him in, the four-seam became useless quick. At 88 mph, there is no wonder that hitters were making good contact. With double the innings on the season, all the trends are showing that he’s losing his stuff.
I should also mention that Hughes looked unbelieveable in the first couple of innings. His new slider looked like a legitimate strikeout pitch, and should end up neutralizing the reverse split right handers have on him. At some point, Hughes should probably be moved to the bullpen, but for now we’re left grasping for starters that can hold a lead. His burnout has come at the worst possible time for a struggling team.
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