When one looks at the line of Phil Hughes’ start last night against the Boston Red Sox, they see 5 IP, 6 hits, 5 ER’s, 1 BB and 3 strikeouts. However, the big stat were the two home runs hit off of Hughes, a solo job by David Ortiz and a three-run jack to the newly rejuvenated J.D. Drew.
Ortiz was almost on the unemployment line until he started to get hot. Big Papi has a .400 BA/.421 OBP/.771 SLG/1.192 OPS over the last two weeks.
J.D. Drew? What is this, a contract year for a Scott Boras client? Drew is really on fire, hitting in 13 of his 15 games played in May. After a terrible start, Drew is hitting .356 BA/.427 OBP/.621 SLG/1.048 OPS.
Although Drew is signed through 2011, it IS somewhat a contract year as Drew needs to play in 129 games in 2010 to get his $14 million salary next season, and not having to get $9 million of it deferred.
So many times, it is not who you play against, it matters when you play them. And these two lefty hitters are hot right now.
Anyway, both home runs were on cutters on the inner third of the plate, were hit with authority by both left-handed hitters Ortiz and Drew. Actually, both pitches were really in good spots, although Francisco Cervelli wanted the pitch to Drew a little higher. Both pitches were in on the hands, but were still hit hard.
This tells me the lefties in the Boston lineup were looking for that pitch. Advanced Boston scouts probably noticed Hughes cutter is being thrown a lot, actually 28% of the time. Hughes’ fastball is his best pitch right now, and that Hughes will go to the cutter at least once an at bat.
Versus lefties, that pitch is coming inside. Last night’s cutter was thrown to all hitters, but the lefties were keying on it.
Hughes faced nine left-handed hitters including Drew (3x), Victor Martinez (twice), Ortiz (twice) and Jeremy Hermida (twice). He threw cutters or fastballs on the inner half to these four guys 14 times and they swung at every single offering. However, when outside fastballs were thrown, they were seldom swung at, mostly when they had two strikes on them and were fighting off the outside hard stuff.
The left-handed Red Sox hitters were looking for the inside cutter, and when they got it, they aggressively attacked it.
Hughes’ cutter is good, but it doesn’t have the same movement and depth of Mariano Rivera’s cutter so it was hittable when lefties were looking for it. In fact, Dustin Pedroia’s great at bat against Hughes a batter before the Drew home run ended when Hughes threw a cutter away and Pedroia pulled into the left field corner for a double.
He came up and was looking for the inside pitch. In that at bat Drew fouled an inside cutter, took a fastball strike outside, took a ball high, fouled off an outside fastball, then deposited the next pitch, that inside cutter into the right field stands.
Before that inning, Hughes was great. He blew through the first two hitters until Drew fought him on a ten pitch at bat, before flying to center. Drew performed the same routine, swinging at every hard pitch inside but fouling off stuff away until he finally got an inside pitch he put in play.
The Adrian Beltre RBI single in the second ws a high outside pitch which Beltre just went the other way with. One of the biggest pitching no-no’s is throwing hard stuff up and away to a hitter who does not have the bat speed anymore to handle good, hard stuff.
Beltre does not have the bat speed anymore. That is his second opposite field RBI single against the Yankees, the first one on opening day versus David Robertson which tied that game at five. The chart say it was a single to center but it was hit past Robinson Cano into right center field.
That pitch was also a fastball out and up.
Hughes has a great fastball and a knee buckling curve ball. He is throwing the fastball at 58 percent of the time in 2010, with the curve ball only 12 percent. He should use those pitches more often and back off the cutter a bit. Also, lets mix in the change-up a little more. That pitch seems to get some extra swings and misses.
Red Sox left-handed hitters are jumping on his hard stuff inside and paying the pitch count game on stuff away. It is only a matter of time before other teams begin to do the same.
So Hughes needs to get ahead while away, show some stuff in for show and get them out on low hard stuff away.
The league has adjusted to him.
Now it is time for Phil Hughes to adjust back to the league.