There isn’t a lot to gather from stats in early preseason. Command for pitchers and timing for hitters are things that develop differently over the spring for each individual. But one relevent statistic to watch closely is the MPH on Phil Hughes’ fastball.
His first outing of the year yesterday was encouraging. The NY Daily News reports that his fastball consistently hit 93mph. This is a vast improvement over last spring when, according to Hughes as quoted in the article, he probably didn’t hit 90, a problem he carried into the regular season.
It’s still very early and I certainly wouldn’t declare him recovered just yet. And I’d be very cautious about accepting the explanation that the difference is simply a matter of the hard work he did this offseason compared with the scant conditioning he put in prior to 2011. He should still be monitored closely and regarded as fragile until he proves otherwise, which is something that will require a much greater sample than the first 38 pitches thrown in early March.
But it’s a good start.
All that said, it will be interesting to see how Hughes’ performance in early 2012 impacts his future in New York. obviously a failure to achieve his expected effectiveness would presumably doom his chances of returning to the rotation. But the question of the Yankees’ best course of action remains even if he pitches well in 2012. Hughes becomes a free agent after 2013 (contrary to a previous post in which I wrote that 2012 was his walk year – I really have to find a better source for player contract info). This makes him a highly valuable trade asset in 2012 if he starts strong. And with six accomplished starting pitchers already in camp and Adam Warren and David Phelps banging on the door already (and with the heralded Banuelos and Betences presumably right behind them) Phil Hughes seems expendable if he can attract the right prospect in return.