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Friday (A look inside the numbers with Phil Hughes) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Twins fans Updated: December 6, 2013 - 10:07 AM

If Ricky Nolasco is more of the known commodity when it comes to the pair of free agent starting pitchers the Twins have signed so far this offseason, then Phil Hughes presents as the wild card.

He's only 27, but he's won 16 and 18 games in separate seasons. That said, he's also battled some health issues and has never thrown more than 192 innings in a season.

Those are the stats that are sitting there in plain sight. But what if we go just a little deeper to find out exactly what kind of pitcher he is?

*Pitch type: Hughes has a good fastball, topping out around 95 and sitting between 92 and 93. He has thrown fastballs for about 63 percent of his career pitches. Some sort of breaking ball (cutter, slider, curve ball) has made up about 31 percent, while changeups have accounted for the other 6 percent. So in terms of how he attacks hitters, think about someone like Scott Baker, who has very similar pitch type numbers, though Baker has a little less velocity on his fastball.

*Type of pitcher: Sounds the same as the last category, but here we're looking at what batters tend to do when he's on the mound. Plain and simple, Hughes is a fly ball pitcher. Of MLB pitchers last season with at least 140 innings pitched, he had the fourth-highest fly ball percentage (46.5) in the majors. That's consistent with his career average (46.0). But his home runs per fly ball percentage wasn't bad (11.1, ranking 41st). His strikeout percentage last season during a down year (18.9 percent) ranked 61st among pitchers with 140 innings or more. That doesn't sound so great, but consider no Twins starter who threw at least 100 innings last season had a K percentage higher than 15. So it's an improvement.

*Ballpark effect: In roughly the same amount of innings home and away in his career, Hughes allowed 76 homers in Yankee Stadium and 36 on the road. He also has an ERA of 4.10 on the road compared to almost 5 at home. We're not sure if his old hitter-friendly home ballpark can be blamed for all of that disparity, but clearly he has been more comfortable away from Yankee Stadium and that should only be a boon for the Twins.

So the biggest questions for Hughes on this 3-year deal are these: 1) Can he bounceback from a subpar 2013 season (4-14 record, 5-plus ERA)? 2) How much will the more spacious Target Field help keep some of those fly balls in the ballpark? 3) Can he prove to be enough of a combination of durable and effective that he performs more as a No. 2 or 3 starter than someone lower down?


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