Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Radar Guns of Navarone

The most watched man in last night's blowout win over Seattle wasn't Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain or Alex Rodriguez. It was the dude holding the radar gun clocking Phil Hughes's pitches.

As concern grows about Hughes's velocity and results, no one can seem to figure out why he's not throwing 93-95, the way he was in the minors. Is he still injured? Tentative from the old injuries? Building arm strength? Overrated?

Last night, Hughes was consistently in the 90-92 range, which is better than he's been the last few starts, but not where he needs to be if he's going to merit his hype. His last fastball, pitch number 97, struck out Ben Broussard but only clocked in at 87 MPH.

Hughes had better results last night, giving up two earned runs in six innings, but neither his velocity nor his command seem right. He's still locating his fastball up in the zone, and when it's not 95 MPH, guys like Raul Ibanez are going to hit it out of the ballpark. Seattle is a free-swinging team that doesn't have a lot of great hitters beyond Ichiro, otherwise last night could have turned out a lot worse for Hughes and the Yankees.

Even though Hughes has only really shown his potential in one big-league start this year (the abbreviated no-hitter), I remain hopeful that his ability will win out. Scouts and numbers alike agree on this kid the way they rarely do on any prospect, and I don't believe he's the pitcher he's shown so far this season. I'm not worried yet. Not much.