Monday, April 30, 2012

In Defense Of Phil Hughes: A Look At His Career To Date And His Future In The Bronx

Courtesy Jason Szenes/ NY Post

It's time to go on a time machine. The year is 2008, and there is a pitcher on the trading block. The player's name is Johan Santana.

The Yankees chose not to trade for Santana. The player the Yankees would have had to give up to the Twins was Phil Hughes. Apparently Hughes was too high a price to pay. This was the first time in awhile that the Yankees decided to not trade their prospects for proven talent.

Did the Yankees "win" by not trading Hughes, along with a few other players, to Minnesota? I can't tell you. Has Johan Santana been a better pitcher since 2008 than Hughes? Yes. Santana has won more than 10 games in every year he has been healthy with the Mets.

But how many pitchers have been better than Santana at any point in their careers?

This is a fair question to ask of Phil Hughes. After all, as the major prospect in that deal, Hughes should be expected to put together at least a decent career. Highly-touted prospects have expectations. When they do not meet them, they are considered busts. 

Despite this, Phil Hughes is not a bust. To date, he has been a decent major leaguer playing in the toughest hitting division in the bigs. He has only had three legitimate MLB seasons (this one does not count). In two of those (2009 and 2010), he was a good pitcher. He won 18 games in 2010 and had an ERA just over 4.00. In 2009, he pitched in 51 games (mainly out of the bullpen) and won eight. However, New York is not a market that gives pitchers time to recover. This is not limited to Hughes. Michael Pineda is already being called a bust. 

Now, to be fair, Hughes has been bad since 2011. He finished with an ERA over 5.00 last year looks lost on the mound this season (his 7.88 ERA doesn't help him). 

Despite this, I am still a believer in Phil Hughes. Why? He is 25 years old. He has had success. More importantly, he has had some postseason success. 

Hughes is a classic case of New York's high expectations disturbing reality. The most obvious other example of this is Ian Kennedy. No one can argue that they would like to have Kennedy as a starting pitcher now. Back in 2008, when he was young and pitching terribly, Kennedy was a failure. Understandably, all Yankee fans want to "win and win now". 

I have a question. If Hughes gets demoted to the bullpen (the popular "solution" of a good amount of Yankees fans), what have the Yankees really done? In my opinion, they have taken a pitcher that is going through growing pains and told him that he is no longer wanted just because he has struggled for a season and a month.

With a 25 year old pitcher, this is not a smart idea.  


You make a good point about Hughes and I know he's growing through growing pains and part of that is because of the way he was developed, but he's stil 25 and two years away from free agency on a team that is trying to win. At some point, throwing him every fifth day is going to get old and they're going to need to move on.

I agree with that.

I don't think that day is here yet. I honestly believe he needs another full year of starting (unless he is so bad it makes no sense to put him out there).

In reality, Hughes has only had one year and two months of bad play.

I don't think this is enough to end his starting career. For some Yankees fans, it might be.

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