New Phil Hughes Meets Old Danks Theory | The Process Report

New Phil Hughes Meets Old Danks Theory

New faces have been a key part of the Rays’ recent offensive success as the team continues to dig out of the early season hold it created. Logan Forsythe and Kevin Kiermaier have been central figures of the run while the currently disabled Jerry Sands had a hand in several late-inning comebacks prior to the All-Star break. Even the newest member of the club, Curt Casali, contributed during his major-league debut on Friday night en route to a victory to open the second half. Meanwhile, with Phil Hughes on the mound Saturday night, Rays’ manager Joe Maddon turned to an old friend to help keep the ball rolling.

Hughes is no stranger to Tampa Bay, having spent his entire career with the Yankees before signing with the Twins this winter. His tenure with New York was filled with frustration as he never quite lived up to the hype and was constantly searching for an identity on the bump. With Minnesota, he continues to tinker; most notably with pitch selection.

Upon arrival to the Twin Cities, Hughes scrapped his slider in favor of another pitch he previously used – the cutter. He also tempered the usage of his changeup and put more emphasis on the curveball. Overall, his outlook remains generally the game: a middle of the rotation starter that will flash as more or fade as less from time to time.

On the other hand, the new pitch selection has resulted in a change regarding Hughes’ splits. In 2013, left-handed batters torched him to the tune of .298/.354/.509. At the same time, right-handers were also active against him, hitting .286/.322/.471

This season Hughes has a decisive platoon split; a reverse one. With his fastball working above the hands of lefties, he is using his curveball lower in the zone while continuously knocking on the back door with the cutter. Coming into Saturday’s start, Hughes had held lefties to a .592 OPS coming  while allowing an .824 OPS to fellow right-handers. With this in mind, Maddon used the Danks Theory; opting for seven right-handed batters and just two left-handed hitters despite the fact that he had three additional southpaws available.

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The strategy was successful once again as the right handed-heavy lineup tagged Hughes for five runs on 11 hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out just one as well. Of the 11 hits, eight came off the bat of right-handed hitters including a two-run blast from Sean Rodriguez, a noted masher of left-handed pitching.

Rodriguez had a multi-hit game versus Hughes as did Brandon Guyer. Logan Forstyhe also had a hit and took the only walk issued by the Twins’ starter. On a normal night, each player could have easily been on the bench in favor of a left-handed counterpart. Tampa Bay pounced on Hughes early in the count, honing in on fastballs and not allowing him to work deep in the count where he could manipulate the edges of the zone with his secondary offerings.

It has been an “all hands on deck” type of season for the Rays. However, on Saturday night, the right hands did most of the work.



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