Phil Hughes was flat-out awful against the Red Sox yesterday, giving up six runs on seven hits — including a home run — and two walks over just two innings. He now has an ugly 16.50 ERA through his first two turns in the starting rotation, but more alarming is that the velocity on his fastball was once again nowhere to be found.
According to Brooks Baseball, while Hughes topped out at 92 mph yesterday, he averaged just 89.84 mph on his fastball. He averaged 92.6 mph on his fastball last season. Also telling is that 30 of his 47 pitches yesterday were cutters, a pitch that was his third option in most cases last season.
The Yankees insist that the 24-year-old right-hander is healthy, so where do they go from here? Send him to the bullpen? The minors? Joe Girardi tells Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York not so fast.
“It is way too early to consider that,” the Yankees manager said. “Phil Hughes won 18 games for us last year. He threw the ball outstanding. I’m not thinking about that.”
Fair enough. Perhaps this is just an issue with arm strength, something that could be remedied by long-tossing and additional bullpen sessions. The Yankees’ starting rotation is already pretty thin, so Hughes should at least get a couple more opportunities to right himself. But if he’s still throwing like this later this month, it’s fair to wonder whether they will remove him from the rotation in favor of Kevin Millwood, who has an opt-out date of May 1 in his minor league contract.
Everyone is well aware of how good Angels outfielder Mike Trout is at the game of baseball. The 26-year-old is already an all-time great, having won two MVP awards — and arguably deserving of two others — and the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award. He has accrued 54.2 WAR, per Baseball Reference, which is right around the threshold for a Hall of Fame career. Trout does it all: he draws walks, he hits for average, he hits for power, he steals bases, he plays good defense.
But here’s an achievement that is amazing even for a player like Trout: he has yet to strike out this spring. In 41 Cactus League plate appearances, he has 10 hits (including a triple and two homers) and six walks with zero strikeouts. Across his career, Trout has a 21.5 percent strikeout rate, right around the league average. He isn’t usually such a stickler for avoiding the punch-out, but this spring he is.
To put this in perspective, 134 players this spring have struck out at least 10 times, according to MLB.com. 938 players have struck out at least once. The only other players to have taken at least 10 at-bats without striking out this spring are Humberto Arteaga (Royals, 23 AB), Tony Cruz (Reds, 18 AB), Oscar Hernandez (Red Sox, 10 AB), and Jacob Stallings (Pirates, 18 AB).
According to Angels assistant hitting coach Paul Sorrento, the lack of strikeouts hasn’t been a conscious effort from Trout, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Ho hum. The best player in baseball is apparently getting even better.