The Yankees announced yesterday that RHP Phil Hughes will be skipped in his next turn in the rotation. His command has been observably terrible over his last several outings, allowing 11 earned runs, six walks, 13 hits in 9.2 innings pitched in his last two starts against Toronto (8/25, 9/5), and against Oakland, allowing only two runs, but still walking five batters in only five innings pitched on 8/31.
His struggles extend earlier than his last three starts, extending into July. He just hasn’t been the same dominating pitcher for quite some time that he was at the start of the season. I wrote a piece earlier about the struggles of the Yankee rotation, and here is an excerpt on Phil Hughes:
Phil Hughes (16-7, 4.29), who emerged as a top of the rotation starter earlier this season, has just not been the same of late. Before the All Star break, Phil was 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA and a 1.85 WHIP. Since the midsummer classic, he has been 5-5 with a 5.47 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Lately, his location has been horrendous, and John Flaherty a few days ago mentioned that his arm slot has dropped, perhaps as a result of fatigue. He has never thrown this many innings in his career, and perhaps skipping a start would pay dividends for Hughes. Some may suggest that his struggles began when the Yankees skipped that start in June, but this is September. They will need Hughes come October, and a tired arm cannot be an excuse for losing a potential big playoff game.
He is approaching his unknown innings limit, and Hughes has even stated that he doesn’t even know his innings limit. The Yankees also said that skipping Hughes this time around is all part of his overall plan for this season, which is understandable.
The biggest issue with Hughes is fatigue in my eyes. Phil has flatly denied that fatigue has been an issue in his recent struggles, but his performance says otherwise.
Skipping Phil Hughes may pay dividends for the Yankees come October, since they will be counting on the young righty in the post season. If one remembers, the Red Sox skipped ace Josh Beckett late in the 2007 season, because his arm was tiring, and they wanted him fresh for October. He dominated in postseason, notably the ALCS, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA, also earning himself ALCS MVP honors.
Phil Hughes is not at the 2007 Josh Beckett level, at least not yet, but the logic behind skipping Hughes makes tremendous sense. They will be counting on Hughes in October to win games, and as I said in my last post, a tired arm in October is not an excuse. Skip him now, allow his arm and head to rest, and reap the benefits of it in October.