Rejoice, New York Yankees fans: tonight was the last time you’ll have to see Phil Hughes pitch in pinstripes in the Bronx.
With just five games remaining and the playoff outlook being as bleak as his numbers, Hughes performed his swansong in Yankee Stadium in the second-last home game of the season. The righty performed up to everyone’s expectations tonight, only recording six outs and as he was taken out in the top of the third after giving up three runs on seven hits.
That will not help lower his 5.07 ERA going into the start, but will surely expedite his uninspiring exit in what once was a promising Yankees career.
Hughes has not won a game since July 2 and was 1-9 in the Cathedral of Baseball this year. As many have pointed out, Yankee Stadium is just not a place where he can make half of his starts in a season. In fact, he’s simply not cut out for the always-tough AL East. His lowest ERA against a division rival is 4.32 vs. the Tampa Bay Rays — far from stellar.
Hughes never lived up to his 23rd-overall draft pick status. He was an All-Star in 2010, compiling 18 wins, but still had a 4.19 ERA. 14 of those wins came when the Yankees scored six or more runs, and he was 0-3 with a 5.82 ERA when his team couldn’t muster more than two runs. Those stats indicate that the pressure got to him in tight games and he rode out wins when the offense carried him.
The best season he had as a Yankee was probably in 2009, when he came out of the bullpen 44 out of his 51 appearances of the year — a World Series-winning year. Basically, he was most effective for the Yanks as a reliever, where he could rear back and throw as hard as he could, sometimes reaching high 90s with his fastball.
He could focus on only using two pitches — his heater and a breaking ball; starters need at least three pitches to be effective at getting through lineups more than one time around.
So, Hughes’ future is now in the hands of the open market, and he should be selling himself as a starting pitcher, even though his real success in pinstripes came from the bullpen. He should also market himself to a team with a spacious ballpark because of his tendency to allow fly balls.
What he shouldn’t consider is playing his next spring training game in the Yankees facilities. His time in pinstripes has come to an end, and not too soon by any stretch of the imagination.