Monday, April 7, 2008

Pags: Mechanics Sap Hughes Velocity

Over at Dugout Central, Mike Pagliarulo investigated the velocity loss seen in Phil Hughes' fastball during his first start of the season. According to Pags, Hughes can blame his lackluster radar readings on mechanical flaws and not an injury or inexplicable malady. Certainly this is a possibility, though there may be even simpler reasons.

Let me preface his study by quoting Pagliarulo's conclusion late in the article which claims, "Let's not forget [Hughes] should still be in AA Trenton."

Wait, what? Pags shows how little he knows about Phil's development, considering in 2006 he tossed 116 innings at AA Trenton, striking out 138, walking 32, allowing only 72 hits, with a 2.06 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and a BAA of .171. If there was ever a 20 year-old ready to jump to AAA and then the major leagues, it was Phil Hughes.

Pagliarulo is the same opinionated third baseman - and not a catcher/pitcher - who predicted Kei Igawa would be an very good acquisition. He then went on to ream Igawa as a poor move as if he never lauded him in the first place. Let's also remember Hughes is coming off a very strong outing, so the criticism is silly and unnecessary:

The reason Phil Hughes isn’t throwing his fastball faster than 91 MPH is mechanics – and nothing else. Why doesn’t Brian Cashman know this? Because he’s an expert at managing groups, people and processes; he’s NOT a baseball expert in terms of scouting, of understanding pitching mechanics, or understanding hitting mechanics, etc. That’s in no way an insult to Brian. Jack Welch, formerly CEO of General Electric, is one of the most respected business leaders of our time, and he couldn’t build a jet engine or a refrigerator himself. But he could manage the people who could.

So, it’s unfair to ask Cashman the Hughes question since it’s not his area of expertise. It’s like asking Joe Girardi about brain surgery.

The good news is that Hughes’ mechanics are fixable. Whether he is coachable – a trait needed for a player to improve – is another thing. I’m not saying he isn’t coachable; I just don’t know the guy, so I can’t say.

In his last Spring training start Hughes was easily hitting 93-94 mph on the radar gun. The explanation for his 91 mph heater last Thursday may be as simple as Hughes having to pitch in Winter-like conditions.

Whatever the case, the 94-95 mph range may not be his sitting velocity [though his 2007 average velocity was over 92], but rest assured he can rear back for mid-90s heat. Coming out of high school he hit triple digits on the radar gun, but Hughes takes pride in an easy low-effort delivery. Apparently WasWatching and Pagliarulo would rather have Hughes throwing 95-96 mph and give up five runs than what we've seen so far this season.

As a reference point, Detroit requested that Justin Verlander take some off his fastball in favor of movement this year. The same may be true of the Yankees and Hughes.

No comments: