• The Last Word On Phil Hughes Fastball

    Posted by on April 24th, 2008 · Comments (10)

    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.

    Now, last season, the average speed of Hughes’ fastball was 91 MPH. And, according to Brian Cashman, this seemed to be about Hughes’ normal speed.

    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.

    Comments on The Last Word On Phil Hughes Fastball

    1. Rich
      April 24th, 2008 | 9:32 am

      One of the biggest problems with assessing velocity is the source of the measurement. In recent games, Gameday which is reputed to be more accurate than radar guns, had, for example, Wang hitting 96-97 when the YES gun had his fastball up to four or five miles slower.

      Gameday had Hughes’s fastball a couple of miles faster than the gun readings that YES showed during his last start in Baltimore.

      Phil’s biggest problem this season has been command and not throwing his secondary pitches enough.

    2. Nick-YF
      April 24th, 2008 | 11:17 am

      so would early career Mike Mussina be the kind of pitcher we hope Hughes turns out to be with his stuff?

      Also, Steve, how do I contact you? I had a question/suggestion for a post and I can’t find the contact info on this page (maybe I’m an idiot and it’s right in front of me?) Sorry to be off-topic.

    3. asdf
      April 24th, 2008 | 11:22 am

      Someone got this data on NoMaas:

      Last year, Hughes’ average fastball was 92.27mph. Santana’s was 92.75. Hamels’ was 91.86. Brandon Webb: 89.6. Halladay is 92.74. Lackey was 92.22. Harang is 90.73. Bedard is 92.35.

    4. baileywalk
      April 24th, 2008 | 11:34 am

      Okay, so Steve is telling us to not obsess about his fastball and just leave the kid alone and let him pitch. Even though he was obsessed with his velocity and wouldn’t let the issue die — beating it to death until the point where fans of this site were calling him out on it daily.

      I won’t use the word hypocrite, because last time I did he got really pissed off at me.

      Of course, I must have said a million times on this site that waiting for Hughes to throw 95 was moronic, because he didn’t throw 95. Like I said back in April (and numerous times before that):

      “Your original conclusion was the correct one: Hughes never sat at 95 mph. Eiland himself said when Hughes was coming up that he threw 90-94. So for the most part you’ll be seeing Hughes throwing 91-93, with the occasional 94 or 95 thrown in, and when he pitches on these hopped-up guns (like the one that had John Maine hitting 97 on Fox) he’ll be in full, fake mid-90s glory.”

    5. baileywalk
      April 24th, 2008 | 11:38 am

      Blah! I sort of wish I could go back and edit that hypocrite comment. No offense, Steve. Maybe I should have just stuck the word “irony” somewhere and left it at that. Hypocrite is kind of harsh.

    6. Zack
      April 24th, 2008 | 12:36 pm

      Your last point Steve is of course the key one that we have been harping on all along. For Hughes, it won’t matter how hard he is throwing if he can’t control it. That was never the kind of pitcher he was (clearly our opinions weren’t enough to convince you though). There are many many many “aces” who do the same, sit 91-93 and occasionally ratchet it up to 95 when they need to. Its about the quality, control, movement, and life.

      But, I would also like to point out, the extreme vagueness with which those scouts use terms. What does sitting 91-95 mean, exactly? Thats a huge range. Technically, in his last two starts or so, Hughes has been doing just that, throwing mostly 92-93, and occasionally going 94. Isn’t that “sitting 91-94?”

    7. April 24th, 2008 | 3:25 pm
    8. baileywalk
      April 24th, 2008 | 3:57 pm

      Nothing to do with the topic, but why it is with WordPress comments seem to appear non-chronologically? Like there will be five comments here for hours, and then a few will pop up as being from much earlier, but were not there at the time it’s stamped?

    9. April 24th, 2008 | 4:14 pm

      If it’s the 1st post for a new member, and the haven’t activated their account yet, the post gets held up until I can approve it. Also, some posts, because of the IP they’re coming from, get held up as SPAM until I can de-SPAM them and have them posted, FYI.

    10. yankees76
      April 24th, 2008 | 6:09 pm

      How do I know that this will not truly be the “Last Word on Phil Hughes’ Fastball” around here?

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