The evolution of Phil Hughes‘ curveball has been a little odd. Out of high school it was said to be his best pitch, but then the Yankees made him pocket it as they tried to teach him a slider in the minor leagues. Since then it’s never really been a true plus pitch for him.
Sometimes it looks good, but most of the time his best pitch has been his fastball. He’s constantly tinkering with it though and these days it’s actually looking pretty good. It turns out though that he’s actually throwing two different curveballs these days. Not a bad idea to keep the hitter off balance.
Here is more from Chad Jennings of the Journal News:
Apparently there was some thought during yesterday’s game that Phil Hughes was throwing his slider again. Hughes said this morning that he’s been occasionally using a slightly lower arm angle and throwing a harder, tighter curveball that might look a little bit like a slider. It’s not a new pitch, just a different way of using his curveball. I know he’s done it in the past, and he said he’s been working on it the past six starts or so.
Fangraphs.com still has his curveball a bit below average at -1.8 wCB, but that number is actually much better than it has been over the past two years when it was a combined -12.2. It’s still not what it was when he first came up, but it’s getting better and hopefully it’ll begin to get back to the level it was once at.
It’s all part of Hughes learning to be a complete pitcher and not just a one-pitch thrower out there. He’s already shown a big improvement from April and hopefully that trend continues.