Monday, April 14, 2008

Hughes Finds Velocity, Loses Command

Well, all the Phil Hughes detractors who became obsessed with his velocity must have been happy to see him throwing consistently 93-94 mph fastballs. Unfortunately, Hughes had no idea where they were headed.

Reaching back for 94-95 mph on an 0-2 elevated fastball is great, but his command has been much better at 90-91. His characteristically impressive command suffered, as did his overall performance to the tune of six hits and three walks over two innings.

Realizing the ESPN gun can be a bit juiced up at times, I confirmed Hughes' radar readings on MLB gameday which also had him consistently 93-94 and Daisuke Matsuzaka at 89-91.

Sure, Hughes has yet to pitch in a game with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees, and it was his first foray into the pressure cooker which is Fenway Park. However, if the youngest pitcher in baseball is unable to give a solid outing Friday at Baltimore, the NY media's trumpets will begin blowing Johan Santana tunes as impatient fans eat it up.

Matsuzaka and Hughes were both awful in the command department last night. And where Matsuzaka has been battle-tested [in Japan and at home], Hughes is still finding his way with six less years on his driver's license. Poor clutch hitting for New York and some timely baseknocks for Boston determined the outcome of this particular contest.

My big gripe is pinch-running Wilson Betemit for Jose Molina in the eighth inning. I - like many of you - first guessed this move as wacky and was supported in the bottom half of the inning as Jorge Posada moved behind the plate. Posada's shoulder is obviously still healing as the Red Sox appropriately ran wild on him without even so much as a throw to second base. The result was an insurance run, pushing the lead from 2 runs to 3 and giving inconsistent relievers like Javier Lopez and Manny DelCarmen that much more cushion.

Joe Girardi
will out-think the opposing manager with much greater frequency, but this particular move - like the decision to have Mike Mussina pitch to Manny Ramirez on Saturday - can be chocked up as another example of Girardi out-dueling himself. As it stands, neither team left Boston with a sweep, and another Yankees-Red Sox series is wasted in a season's early going.

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