When I posted my projection for Phil Hughes prior to the season (click here to view), I noted that I was concerned with him heading into the 2011 season. 

I do believe a lot of people got caught up with the fact that he was an 18-game winner, allowing that to overshadow some fairly evident flaws hanging over him.

If you looked closely, you would have noticed that after May, Hughes failed to post an ERA under 4.00 in any month:

  • June – 5.17 (31.1 innings)
  • July – 5.52 (29.1 innings)
  • August – 4.22 (32.0 innings)
  • September – 4.85 (26.0 innings)

You also saw that he was very prone to the long ball, with a HR/9 of 1.59 from June on (and 1.69 at Yankees Stadium).  Pitching at home to open the season, we saw this problem present itself as he allowed a pair of home runs to Miguel Cabrera.

Want to think that he could be a big strikeout pitcher?  Given his K/9 of 10.01 in the minor leagues and striking out nearly a batter per inning over the first two months of ’10, it would be a fair assessment.  Of course, he was also at 6.72 from June on in ’10, so seeing him struggle and strike out just one in his ’11 debut shouldn’t be shocking.

Do I think he’s that bad?  No, of course not. 

Hughes should be a good source of strikeouts moving forward, but the other numbers are concerning.  The biggest problem are the home runs which, if he can’t get them under control, are going to eliminate any opportunity for a good ERA.

There has also been a lot of talk about Hughes’ velocity, which sat at or below 90 mph on Sunday.  Last season he averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball. 

It’s just another wrinkle, and something else to concern us.  To make matters worse, Joel Sherman of The New York Daily News said that Hughes “threw 40 fastballs in all—and never got a swing and miss on a single one.”

In his first start today against the Tigers Hughes posted the following line:

4.0 IP, 5 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 1 K

Obviously, it’s just one start and you don’t want to do anything drastic because of it.  Of course, his next start comes in Boston against arguably the best lineup in the game. 

So what do you do?

It is hard to say that he belongs on your bench in daily formats, but at the same time it is hard to argue against it either.  He did fair well against the Red Sox in ’10, going 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA and 19 K over 25.0 innings. 

To help make the decision a little bit easier, let’s look at how some of the top Red Sox hitters have fared against Hughes in their careers:

  • Kevin Youkilis – .308, 1 HR
  • David Ortiz – .417, 1 HR
  • Carl Crawford – .154, 0 HR
  • Dustin Pedroia – .077, 0 HR
  • Adrian Gonzalez – Never Faced

It’s a mixed bag really. 

Hughes’ lengthy struggles certainly should be cause for concern and the match-up doesn’t do you any favors.  If I had the option I would probably leave him on my bench due to the tough match-up and the decreased velocity. 

If you do opt to play him, just be prepared to be disappointed and deal with the consequences.

What are your thoughts on Hughes?  Would you start him against Boston?  Why or why not?

Make sure to check out these other helpful articles from earlier today:


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