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.
Great moments in scouting. MLB.com’s Richard Justice spoke to an unnamed scout about the Astros, currently holding the American League’s best record at 76-47. The scout said that the Astros strike out too much and it will catch up with them. Justice pointed out that the Astros have the lowest strikeout total in baseball. The scout responded, “I don’t believe that.”
Justice, of course, is correct. The average major league team has struck out 1,006 times entering Sunday’s action. The Astros have by far the lowest total at 827, followed by the Indians at 881 and the Pirates at 882.
This scout doesn’t represent all scouts, but this is one of the major problems that advocates of statistics were trying to highlight before Sabermetrics became popular a decade ago. It’s a pattern. Person believes thing. Person either cherry-picks evidence to defend belief or is shown evidence that belief is not factually true and ignores it. Person refuses to change belief, using one of many excuses.
The other problem this highlights is the fallacy of “the eye test,” which is shorthand for treating a scout’s observations as sacrosanct due to his or her experience and knowledge of the game. In this case, the scout ignored easily accessed information, went with his gut, and turned out to be completely wrong. Furthermore, if “the eye test” were legit, the scout would’ve known that, for example, Yulieski Gurriel and Jose Altuve hardly ever strike out (11.1 and 12.4 percent strikeout rates, respectively). In fact, no one on the Astros’ roster (min. 230 PA) has a strikeout rate above 21 percent; the league average is 21.5 percent.
This isn’t to impugn the practice of scouting as a whole. There are a lot of things scouts can tell you about a player that data cannot and that has value. But for easily-researched claims like “the Astros strike out too much,” there’s no reason to trust a scout over the stats.
The Mets acquired right-handed reliever Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers, the team announced on Sunday. Rhame is the player to be named later in the trade that sent outfielder Curtis Granderson to Los Angeles on Friday night. He’s expected to report to the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rhame, 24, pitched through his second Triple-A campaign with the Oklahoma City Dodgers in 2017, collecting two saves in 41 appearances and logging a 4.31 ERA, 1.9 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 48 innings. While his ERA saw a sharp spike from its modest 3.29 mark in 2016 (perhaps thanks in part to a midseason DL stint due to an undisclosed injury), he’s controlling the ball better than he has in several years and has drawn some attention with a fastball that occasionally touches 98 MPH on the radar gun.
The Mets’ bullpen hasn’t been at its finest over the last few weeks, ranking 16th among its major league competitors with a collective 4.50 ERA and 2.4 fWAR, but likely isn’t looking to add an extreme fly ball pitcher to its staff just yet. Until he gets his big league break, Rhame will beef up Triple-A Vegas’ relief corps alongside fellow right-handers Yaisel Sierra, Joe Broussard and Josh Ravin.