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The Not-So Curious Case of Phil Hughes

Phil Hughes.  He is one of the most controversial players in fantasy circles. A once highly touted Yankees prospect, everything seemed to be progressing as planned for Mr. Hughes after a successful debut in 2010, posting a line of a 4.19 ERA, 1.24WHIP along with 18 wins and 146 k’s in 176.1 innings.  And then he disappointed fantasy owners worldwide with what followed.  And that may be an understatement.

What we saw was a pure and utter disaster.  There is no way to sugarcoat what he brought to fantasy teams across the 2011-2013 campaigns:

4.85ERA

1.37WHIP

7.28 K/9

While Hughes threw 411.2 innings over this three year span, everything seemed to indicate that he needed a change of scenery, and he signed as a FA with Minnesota.  It was a move that very much flew under the radar.  Many Yankees fans rejoiced that Hughes was gone.  Many fantasy owners laughed at the Twins attempt to revive a floundering former top prospects career.  But so far, the Twins are getting great returns on their investment as Hughes has started off with a bang.

So what do we make of Hughes’ strong start to the 2014 campaign?

Let’s take a deep look at his numbers…

6-2, 3.46ERA, 1.12WHIP, 63K in 75.1 IP

On the surface, one may think – he is a prime candidate to regress given his track record.  One may also think – he is Phil Hughes, he clearly is not good at baseball.

Not so fast:

His BABIP currently sits at .305, nothing that screams regression.  His HR/FB rate sits at 6.8% and is likely to rise to the high single digits, maybe even touching low double digits.  However, this is not enough to solely explain the improvements we have seen with Hughes year to date.  So what has improved for Phil?  Taking a look at Hughes’ numbers across the board, something screams out: an improved BB rate.  Hughes is pounding the zone at an elite clip, trailing only David Price in BB/9 out of qualified pitchers.  Hughes is posting an elite walk rate of less than 1 batter per 9 innings (0.96).  While a sub 1 BB/9 rate is difficult for any pitcher to sustain over the course of a season, even if he were to see a slight uptick in his walks, he is still far better than he had been in the past, averaging 2.7BB/9 over the last 3 seasons.  He is pitching with confidence now that he is with the Twins, and sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

What I expect moving forward?

I expect Hughes to continue throwing well for the Twins.  I think it is safe to say that he is a prime candidate to end the year with a sub 3.80 ERA, a WHIP in the low 1.2’s, while maintaining a strike out rate in his usual range of the low 7’s.  If he does that, he will continue to win his fair share of games – and should be someone you should add to your staff.  Due to his recent track record from 2011-2013, owners in almost all fantasy circles are hesitant to trust Hughes, and his numbers show that he is likely to sustain good numbers for the remainder of 2014.

As always, let us know what you think!

 

About Brad

Brad hates the term fantasy sports expert, so instead he is someone who specializes in NFL, NHL and MLB DFS notes and analysis. He had a 68.2% win rate in 2015 NFL cash games to go along with a 83.5% win rate for the 2014 season. For NHL he had a 58.7% win rate in the 2015-16 season for cash games and a 66.2% win rate for the 2014-15 season. You can follow him on Twitter @bradsgotmoxy.

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