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.

RHP Fairbanks, Rays agree to 3-year, $12 million contract

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Reliever Pete Fairbanks and the Tampa Bay Rays avoided arbitration when they agreed Friday to a three-year, $12 million contract that could be worth up to $24.6 million over four seasons.

The deal includes salaries of $3,666,666 this year and $3,666,667 in each of the next two seasons. The Rays have a $7 million option for 2026 with a $1 million buyout.

His 2024 and 2025 salaries could increase by $300,000 each based on games finished in the previous season: $150,000 each for 35 and 40.

Tampa Bay’s option price could increase by up to $6 million, including $4 million for appearances: $1 million each for 60 and 70 in 2025; $500,000 for 125 from 2023-25 and $1 million each for 135, 150 and 165 from 2023-25. The option price could increase by $2 million for games finished in 2025: $500,000 each for 25, 30, 35 and 40.

Fairbanks also has a $500,000 award bonus for winning the Hoffman/Rivera reliever of the year award and $200,000 for finishing second or third.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 11-10 with a 2.98 ERA and 15 saves in 111 appearances, with all but two of the outings coming out of the bullpen since being acquired by the Rays from the Texas Rangers in July 2019.

Fairbanks was 0-0 with a 1.13 ERA in 24 appearances last year after beginning the season on the 60-day injured list with a right lat strain.

Fairbanks made his 2022 debut on July 17 and tied for the team lead with eight saves despite being sidelined more than three months. In addition, he is 0-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 12 career postseason appearances, all with Tampa Bay.

He had asked for a raise from $714,400 to $1.9 million when proposed arbitration salaries were exchanged Jan. 13, and the Rays had offered for $1.5 million.

Fairbanks’ agreement was announced two days after left-hander Jeffrey Springs agreed to a $31 million, four-year contract with Tampa Bay that could be worth $65.75 million over five seasons.

Tampa Bay remains scheduled for hearings with right-handers Jason Adam and Ryan Thompson, left-hander Colin Poche, third baseman Yandy Diaz and outfielder Harold Ramirez.