Phil Hughes blames inconsistent changeup for second-half fade, but do the numbers agree?

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Phil Hughes discussed his second-half struggles with Brian Costello of the New York Post and explained that relying less and less on his changeup during a successful first half caused the pitch to lose effectiveness when he needed it down the stretch.

Hughes made his first All-Star team by going 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA in the first half, but then sunk to a 4.90 ERA in the second half. He tossed seven shutout innings against the Twins in Game 3 of the ALDS, but then got knocked around in both ALCS starts versus the Rangers.

It seemed like I could do no wrong in some games where I didn’t throw [the changeup] at all. It’s hard to keep something fresh in your repertoire when you’re never using it. I felt like that might have hurt me a little bit, just not having it. Then, maybe when fatigue set in and I really needed that changeup to help me get through these games, it just wasn’t there.

The numbers jibe with Hughes’ comments, sort of. He used his changeup very little all season, throwing it just 3.5 percent of the time. He relied on it more often in September, throwing it 9.5 percent of the time, but barely used it while struggling in July (4.2 percent) and August (2.0 percent). And while Hughes may not have been comfortable with how his changeup felt while upping its usage in September, Fan Graphs’ data shows that the pitch was actually more effective in September than it was during the first five months.

Perhaps the lack of changeup consistency played a role in his late-season decline, but it seems more likely that Hughes throwing 176 innings after totaling 175 innings between the majors and minors in the previous two years simply caused him to wear down.

The Blue Jays are allergic to .500

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The Blue Jays dropped Thursday afternoon’s game to the Rangers 11-4, splitting the four-game home series. And, impressively, the Blue Jays failed for the ninth time to get back to .500. The club is now 35-37.

Here’s a look at all the times the Blue Jays could’ve evened out their won-lost record and what happened:

  • April 5 (0-1): Lost 3-1 to the Orioles
  • April 7 (1-2): Lost 10-8 to the Rays
  • June 1 (26-27): Lost 12-2 to the Yankees
  • June 3 (27-28): Lost 7-0 to the Yankees
  • June 5 (28-29): Lost 5-3 to the Athletics
  • June 13 (31-32): Lost 8-1 to the Rays
  • June 16 (32-33): Lost 11-4 to the White Sox
  • June 20 (34-35): Lost 6-1 to the Rangers
  • June 22 (35-36): Lost 11-4 to the Rangers

The Blue Jays are now a half-game behind the Orioles for fifth place in the AL East, but they’re only 5.5 games behind the first-place Yankees. Interestingly, if the Blue Jays played in the NL East and had the same record, they would be in second place. But even the Phillies — baseball’s worst team — have been at .500 or better for a few days: after winning Opening Day and after game Nos. 6, 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22.

Report: Marlins expected to trade Adeiny Hechavarria

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Marlins are expected to trade shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria in the next few days.

Hechavarria, 28, is currently on a rehab assignment for a strained left oblique. It’s the second time this season he’s hit the sidelines with an oblique injury. Hechavarria is also hitting a disappointing .277/.288/.385 over 67 plate appearances, which is marginally better than his career averages.

While the Marlins are shopping Hechavarria at depressed value, there are two factors that give him value: he still plays good defense, and he’s under team control through the 2018 season. Passan does estimate that Hechavarria will see a pay raise from $4.3 million this season to $6-7 million next season in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility.

Passan adds that while the Marlins aren’t yet willing to shop outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, relievers A.J. Ramos, David Phelps, and Kyle Barraclough are being made available.