Phil Hughes was once the most highly-touted pitching prospect the Yankees’ organization had to offer. He simply hasn’t panned out. Every time it seems that Hughes may be turning the corner, he is slammed with a string of dreadful starts. So the question arises, why? Why has Hughes been unable to live up to the potential he once had?
As we’ve seen numerous times in the past, most recently with AJ Burnett, some pitchers just are not made for New York City. There have been a fair share of pitchers that can not deal with the pressure and bright lights of Yankee Stadium, but when being shipped somewhere else, finally show their true talent. Phil Hughes has no problem with the bright lights, but he has a slightly different problem with pitching in Yankee Stadium: that “314″ down the right field line. Hughes simply is not cut out to pitch in the small ballpark that is Yankee Stadium.
Now for the living proof.
Most pitchers, just from feeling more comfortable, will pitch better at home. Not Phil Hughes. In his career, Hughes has posted a 4.78 ERA at home, while posting a respectable 4.15 ERA on the road. To put that road ERA into perspective, it’s only .34 runs higher than top-5 pitcher Justin Verlander’s career average. Let’s go deeper into the numbers to show why the ballpark is the problem. At home, Phil Hughes actually strikes out MORE batters per 9 innings, and posts a very similar Ground Ball/Fly Ball rate whether he’s home or on the road. But here’s the difference: In his career, Phil Hughes’ Home Run/Fly Ball rate at home is an extremely high 12.7%, while his HR/FB rate on the road is an extremely respectable 7.5%. Additionally, batters are slugging nearly 100 POINTS higher vs. Hughes at Yankee Stadium opposed to on the road. There’s your difference people.
So what does this mean? Well, it means that Phil Hughes should not be a Yankee for much longer, but it also means that Yankee fans must be prepared for him to turn into respectable starter if they indeed to get their wish and ship him off somewhere else. Hughes is a free agent at the end of this 2013 season, but if I’m Cashman, I’m looking to deal him before the All-Star Break. He’s nearly useless to the Yankees at this point, but I don’t necessarily believe he has no trade value. If Cashman can break out these numbers to another GM that believes in them (there should be GMs out there that do), the Yankees may be able to involve themselves in another “everybody wins” trade in late July. But until then, the Yanks might want to consider other options, at least when playing in the “comfort” of their own home.