On February 16th of this year, Peter Abraham had this to share on Phil Hughes’ fastball:
Watched Phil Hughes throw and was impressed with his fastball. After his leg injury in May, he said his heater was 91-92 instead of the usual 93-95 it is. “It wasn’t until the playoffs when I felt complete confidence in my leg,” he said. “That was when I got my fastball back.”
Hughes said it’s not so much velocity that he counts on. It’s more the “late life” when he can throw harder. “You need your legs to follow throw and get that little extra on the pitch,” he said. “I wasn’t getting that.”
Note the part about Hughes’ fastball being “usual 93-95″ MPH.
This seemed to match what some others had to say about Hughes’ fastball in the past. In October of 2006, Baseball America had this to share on the matter:
Hughes throws a two-seam fastball at 89-90 mph and a four-seamer at 91-95.
Note the part where it reads Hughes had a “four-seamer at 91-95.” So, again, like in the Abraham report, we see 95 MPH.
John Beamer of The Hardball Times, in July of last year, had this to say on Hughes:
Hughes’ ace-like projections are based solely off of one pitch: an uber-strong fastball, typically a four-seamer but also with some two-seam stuff mixed in. It tops out at 96 mph and regularly sits in the 91-95 mph zone.
Note the part where he says: “It tops out at 96 mph and regularly sits in the 91-95 mph zone.” There’s that 95 MPH thing again.
But, there were all those darn reports about “95 MPH.” So many went back and forth on this matter – to the point where even I got tired of it. However, today, we now have the final word from the source. Via George King:
When Hughes surfaced in spring training two years ago Jason Giambi looked at the fastball and compared Hughes to a “young Roger Clemens.” Immediately, Hughes was pegged as a power pitcher who threw in the mid-90s. It’s a label he says was wrong.
“I never threw that hard, even when I was going good at Trenton (Double-A), I looked at the reports and it was 93. There were three times all year I touched 95,” says Hughes, who routinely pitches at 91-92 mph.
I never threw that hard, even when I was going good at Trenton (Double-A), I looked at the reports and it was 93. There were three times all year I touched 95.
Hopefully, this is now it on the story of Hughes’ fastball. No more talk about leg injuries, slow TV guns, arm slots, etc. There is no Phil Hughes’ blazer.
What does this all mean? At the end of the day, nothing. As long as he throws strikes, mixes his pitches, doesn’t tip his pitches, and keeps the ball in the park, there’s no reason why Phil Hughes cannot have an impressive big league career with a fastball in the range of 91-92 MPH.
And, that should be the focus when people look at Hughes pitching. Don’t look for the Dwight Gooden/Roger Clemens/Randy Johnson/Pedro Martinez fastball. It’s not there – and, now, according to Hughes (and despite many of the scouting reports), it was never there.
When you watch Phil Hughes, watch his command of the strike zone and the way that hitters are reacting to his pitches. That’s the important thing for him. If those two things go well, so will the results for Hughes.