2012 ALDS: 4 Reasons Why Yankees Starting Phil Hughes in Game 4 Is a Big Mistake
In Game 4 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Orioles, New York will send out Phil Hughes to start against southpaw Joe Saunders.
Hughes, of course, was a very highly touted prospect for the Yankees prior to his major league debut. However, since being in the major leagues, he has been repeatedly shifted back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, which has not helped his growth as a pitcher.
Hughes was exclusively a starting pitcher through this year, however, and will make the fourth postseason start of his career against the Orioles. Nonetheless, starting him over CC Sabathia in Game 4 is a big mistake and surely one that the Yankees will regret.
Here are four reasons why the Yankees starting Phil Hughes in Game 4 of the ALDS will be a big mistake.
1. Hughes Is Young and Still Not Particularly Experienced in the Postseason
In Game 4, Hughes will make his fourth career postseason start and 17th postseason appearance.
In his postseason career, Hughes is 2-3 with a 5.40 ERA. In 30 postseason innings pitched, he has allowed 18 earned runs, 34 hits and 12 walks, with a WHIP of 1.533.
To Hughes' credit, he has pitched better in the ALDS over the course of his career compared to the ALCS and World Series. He is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in eight ALDS appearances, including one start.
On the other hand, most of his ALDS success came as a reliever, so there is no telling whether he will pitch as well as a starter this year.
Although Hughes has some postseason experience, both CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte would be a better choice to make for this crucial game in a best-of-five series.
Sabathia has an additional two years of postseason experience and is a 12-year veteran, unlike Hughes, who made his major league debut in 2007. Pettitte has been to the postseason in 14 of his 17 years in the major leagues and is one of the most successful postseason pitchers of all time.
The pressure of the situation could also get to Hughes, which would not be good for the Yankees at all. Younger players tend to not be as calm and composed as older veterans.
Hopefully, for Hughes and the Yankees' sakes, he will control his emotions and pitch well in perhaps the biggest game of his career.
2. Hughes Has Had an Inconsistent Season This Year
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Sure, Phil Hughes won 16 games this year, but that does not necessarily mean he had a great season.
Hughes went 16-13 with a 4.23 ERA, a 1.265 WHIP, 46 walks and 165 strikeouts in 191.1 innings pitched. It's a good year, but certainly not a great one with those ERA and WHIP totals.
Of the 32 starts Hughes made, only 17 were quality starts. In order to have a quality start, a starting pitcher must pitch at least six innings and give up three runs or less. This, of course, means that Hughes was rather inconsistent and only pitched particularly well about half the time.
This is a fascinating statistic because while Hughes has pitched brilliantly at times, he has not done so well in almost half of his starts this year. It will be interesting to see which Hughes shows up in the ALDS against the Orioles.
3. Hughes' Success Has Been Largely Due to Great Run Support
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If Hughes only had 17 quality starts this year, how was he able to win so many games? The answer is rather simple: Hughes had great run support from the powerful Yankees lineup all season.
The Yankees' offense scored five or more runs 18 times this year when Hughes was on the mound. Of those 18 starts, the Yankees won 13 games, and Hughes picked up 11 of his 16 wins during the process.
The Yankees' offense has been hitting the ball very well recently, and that could certainly benefit Hughes in his upcoming start.
However, if the Yankees are not hitting as much, Hughes could be in trouble. He will have to pitch even better to limit the Orioles' offensive output as much as possible.
4. Hughes Has Pitched Poorly in His Career Against the Orioles
The Orioles are not a team that Hughes has exactly dominated. He has a 6-4 record and a 5.10 ERA against the team he will be facing in the ALDS.
Furthermore, Hughes went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts this year against the Orioles.
Although the Yankees have been postseason regulars for the last 20 years and the Orioles are making their first postseason appearance in 15 years, the O's have had Hughes' number.
Baltimore definitely has a chance of winning behind veteran left-hander Joe Saunders, who has already won a big postseason start this year—the Wild Card Game against the Rangers.