Phil Hughes: Better suited to be a Starter or Reliever?
That is the proverbial mystery, wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma because he has the mental make up to be a successful starter, but is lacking the mechanics to be a big innings eater in the rotation. This will be one of those questions that’ll have to be addressed after the season. It’s one of those questions that organizations are faced with when addressing what’s best for the organization and what’s best for the player. From my experience, the New York Yankees do put a high priority on doing what’s best for their players, and they do this better than any organization in baseball.
Back to my observation of Phil and watching him in his recent return – I am disputing his claims that he’s changed enough of his mechanics to make it through the rest of the season without breaking down. Phil has not purged himself of some of the mechanical issues that he had before his time away from the team this season, i.e., he’s a bit of a short armer which affects his endurance, the amount of movement on his fastball, cuts down on the potential leverage on his new harder curve, and has not changed his shallow follow through which prevents him from having the more desirable shoulder to shoulder rotation for improved control.
One very important and notable mechanical change he seems to have made is that he has softened his deceleration phase in his follow through. This change is a real plus because a hard deceleration causes wear and tear on the arm- especially the shoulder. This should help him to alleviate any additional damage that can potentially happen because of the other mechanical flaws Phil is working through. Although, his deceleration was never as violent as Jim Bouton or Darryl Kile’s deceleration phase of their delivery, it was just a hard enough of a recoil to see he was heading possibly to a shorter career via circulatory and rotator cuff problems.
RE: Phil’s new, improved faster curve…
Trying to find a photo of Phil Hughes displaying his new curve grip which is different from his previous curve w/knuckle and more like his original curve grip that he started with has been exhausting. I’m speculating he’s got more velocity on his curve because he’s not choking it, but I’d still like to see a picture of the grip to verify this. The ball may be gripped more with his finger tips and fingers instead of closer to his palm. If it’s further out on his fingers, that’ll also allow him to have more flexibility in his wrist. With more flexibility, he’ll be able to get his thumb to come over the top more efficiently when snapping off his curve. As an extra pitching note, getting the ball out farther on the fingers increases the velocity of any type of pitch-not just the curve. Conversely, any pitch grip that is choked or closer the palm-reduces velocity.
Del Pittman | Former MLB Scout