Yankee Lightning Can't Totally Save Phil Hughes - NBC New York

Yankee Lightning Can't Totally Save Phil Hughes

The game was won but Hughes is lost



    Yankee Lightning Can't Totally Save Phil Hughes
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    Lost velocity is always the last place you look.

    At the end of Thursday night, the Bronx was a very happy place.

    Nick Swisher was wearing a whipped cream pie on his face after a 10th inning sacrifice fly, Jorge Posada was feeling flush after a clutch game-tying home run and Frank Sinatra was booming over the loudspeakers. Rain meant it was just a two-game series with the Orioles, but the inconsistency of the Yankees this year has been such that it still felt good to take them both. 

    It felt especially good because of the way the Yankees offense, strangely reviled in this year of the no pitchers, came back from a 5-0 hole in the fifth inning. Posada's home run capped off the first 2011 appearance of Yankee lightning, that late-arriving magic that leaves fans with nothing but smiles when all is said and done. 

    Usually, anyway. Right now, the lightning just won them a game and kept Phil Hughes from being attacked by hordes following the game.

    Hughes stunk once again on Thursday night, keeping his streak of terrible starts alive at three in the young season. The reasons for his performance were exactly the same as they've been all season.

    Hughes averaged a shade over 89 mph on his "fastball" Thursday, providing absolutely no meaningful difference from his breaking pitches. That problem was exacerbated by his total inability to locate pitches, as evidenced in these graphs from BrooksBaseball.

    The numbers were slightly better than in his first couple of starts, although you have to credit a couple of nice outfield catches for keeping the Yankees in the game long enough for lightning to strike. You need only look at how quick the hook came for Hughes in the fifth to know that there's no trust or belief in Hughes from the coaching staff right now.

    That's why he shouldn't be making his next start for a little while. Bartolo Colon was excellent in relief again last night and there are off days coming up in the schedule that make it very easy to move Hughes out of the rotation until there's a reason to bring him back.

    You could drop him into the bullpen, but it would seem to make much more sense to have him take a regular turn in the Triple-A rotation in an effort to build his velocity back up to something capable of succeeding at the major league level. It's not the way you drew things up, but it is the way things have to be right now.

    It's scary to think the Yankee rotation would be so reliant on Colon, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia, but, honestly, it's scarier to think about Hughes climbing the hill again and again.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.