by Andrew Gould
So how many people added Phil Hughes after a string of solid starts in May, only to be punished by him allowing seven runs in his last start against the Angels?
One small step forward, one giant step back. Hughes’ career continues to follow this path. Just when you think Hughes is ready to take the next step and progress into a top-line starter, he falls apart and puts his spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation in jeopardy.
It started in 2010, when a fine first half earned Hughes an All-Star appearance in his first full season as a starting pitcher. He regressed through the end of the year and finished with a 4.19 ERA, a mark he now wishes he could reach. This yea, Hughes has posted a 5.64 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in a rotation that overly zealous Yankees fans worried would feature too many good starting pitchers.
Is there still hope for Phil Hughes or is it time to label him as another overhyped New York prospect who will never live up to the lofty expectations?
This may sound odd, but Hughes has actually shown a lot of progress in the first two months of the year. Even though opposing teams continue to hit him hard, his strikeouts and walks are both heading in the right direction. With 49 strikeouts and 13 walks in 52.2 innings, Hughes holds a 3.77 K/BB ratio that ranks 10th in the MLB.
Surprisingly, he’s only one of three – along with Carl Pavano and Max Scherzer – of those ten with an ERA over 5.00, but a lot of strikeouts and few walks typically lead to success. If he maintains this level of effectiveness throughout the year, he could help out some fantasy teams down the stretch.
Hughes is, however, getting killed by the long ball. He has already surrendered 12 home runs, tied for fifth most in the league with teammate Ivan Nova, who also possesses much better strikeout and walk numbers despite a slow start. This problem is hardly new for Hughes, who gave up 25 homers in 2010. Since 49.1 percent of his batted balls are fliers and he pitches around half his games in a hitter’s haven, this problem could continue to thwart Hughes from earning mainstream fantasy appeal.
Where does that leave Hughes going forward in 2012? Owned in a mere 13 percent of Yahoo! leagues, most owners appear content to steer far away the 26-year-old. In a standard 10-team mixed league, that is probably the proper course of action until he can produce tangible results.
Since the Rangers and Angels have afflicted the majority of the damage to Hughes’ numbers this year, he is an interesting play in the right situation. If you can stream him, or simply start him in favorable matchups, Hughes can assist your team during the rest of the season.