This morning my Twitter feed has been full of talk about Phil Hughes’ declining velocity, starting with a couple reports quoting scouts.
First, here’s Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com:
Scouts following Yankees have been stunned by Phil Hughes’ lack of velocity this spring 87-89 mph, with more 87s than 89s.
And now here’s Joel Sherman of the New York Post:
I can give amens to DKnobler’s scout take about Hughes’ velocity being down. Yankees say was down last yr, too, and came up in Apr. But one scout said had Hughes at 90-94mph this time last yr and it is 87-89 now with heavy reliance on cutter.
What’s especially interesting is that Ben Shpigel of the New York Times wrote an article Wednesday about how Hughes had “unveiled” an altered grip on his slider that made the pitch more like a cutter and was very pleased with the pitch after it accounted for six of his seven strikeouts against the Blue Jays. In talking about the pitch Hughes explained that “it’s just something to get them off my fastball.”
Of course, that takes on a slightly different tone when accompanied by reports of his fastball being in the high-80s. Hughes’ average fastball clocked in at 92.6 miles per hour last season, which was down from 93.8 mph in 2009 but still well above the MLB average. If he’s indeed relying far more on a cutter his overall velocity readings are going to be down, but assuming scouts are isolating his fastball when they pass along readings in the high-80s there’s certainly some reason for concern.