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Updated: July 19th, 2014 10:04pm
Righties having much more success than lefties against Phil Hughes

Righties having much more success than lefties against Phil Hughes

Audio Clip
7/18/2014
Sports Over Beers, episode 24. Jim Souhan on trade deadline for the Twins
Jim Souhan joins the Sports Over Beers podcast for some plausible Twins trade scenarios. This episode was recorded at Brothers in downtown Minneapolis, and is sponsored by Shock Top -- Live Life Unfiltered. The Twins should be trade-deadline sellers, the question is whether or not they’ll realize that in time. Which players should the Twins look to trade? Josh Willingham, Kendrys Morales, Kevin Correia, Kurt Suzuki? Who are some that aren’t getting talked about much who could or should be moved? Trade candidates or not: Sam Deduno? Trevor Plouffe? Casey Fien? Souhan’s top-3 trade options. Can Josmil Pinto be the Twins catcher of the future or should the Twins extend Suzuki? -- Will Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire be here this time next year? What do you think about these roles: Paul Molitor manager, Tom Kelly bench coach. Robin Yount? -- The guys take a walk down memory lane with some obscure Twins from the past, including a story about a former ballplayer and potential drug dealer. How did the steroid era slip by largely unnoticed for a while? -- Outlining the Elbow Empowerment Program. What’s the next ‘Moneyball,’ or market inefficiency?
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by Derek Wetmore
1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Rays on Saturday loaded their lineup with right-handers. James Loney was the only left-handed bat in the starting lineup. Ordinarily, that would signify they were facing a left-hander on the mound. But this time, it meant Phil Hughes took the mound for the Twins.

Typically a pitcher does better against batters of the same handedness. For Hughes this season, it's quite the opposite.

Hughes' overall numbers this season are impressive: 10-6 with a 4.06 ERA, but more importantly 109 strikeouts and just 12 walks in 128 2/3 innings. 

If there's a flaw to point out, it's that right-handed hitters have owned him.

Here are the numbers against Hughes this season, entering Saturday's start:

 

Batters

Walks

Strikeouts

Home Runs

AVG

OBP

SLG

wOBA

LHH

256

8

60

4

.226

.253

.339

.259

RHH

245

3

48

5

.332

.343

.481

.358

Source: Fangraphs.com.

In his career, lefties have hit .253/.319/.418 and righties have hit .267/.310/.444. Those are very similar batting lines, so why such a huge difference this season?

"I feel like if anything, the adjustments I've made have been to be better against lefties. I'm trying to make adjustments to handle right-handers better," Hughes said after Saturday's start. "I want to rely on my four-seamer as much as I can but it can get me into trouble if I'm too predictable against right-handers, where I need to show them something inside with a two-seam fastball or something like that.

"I got a few jam shots and some ground ball double plays [Saturday], so there's signs of being able to make good pitches and execute to righties. It's just for the most part my main strengths are against left-handers. I'll have to continue to make those adjustments."

Hughes ditched his slider this year and he's throwing more of a fastball-cutter mix. He hadn't thrown many cutters the past two seasons with the Yankees, and in his final season in New York nearly a quarter of his pitches were sliders. Twins general manager Terry Ryan thinks that change in approach could have to do with the extreme splits this year.

"He gave up the slider and he's throwing a lot more cutters, but he's also throwing a lot of fastballs," Ryan said before Saturday's game. "When you throw a lot of fastballs, usually it tails in [toward a right-handed hitter]. And most hitters have a little better grasp of the inner half than they do the four-spot [outside corner]."

Even if it's a bit general, there's validity too that theory, Hughes said.

"I feel like my strength is glove-side to left-handers," Hughes said, referring to the inside corner. "So if I do miss and the ball runs back [over the plate] a little bit, it's still inner-half, inner-third. It can be tough for lefties to handle those pitches. On the flip side of that, hitting a four-spot to right-handers, if the ball does leak back [over the plate], it's a very hittable pitch for righties."

He said one adjustment he could make is showing more two-seamers inside to righties, and doing so early in the game. Saturday he started doing that after he'd allowed three runs in the second inning. And when you're facing David Price, those three runs could be the all the Rays need. They were on Saturday.

"I'll continue to try to make adjustments out there and not get too hard-headed out there with what [plan] I feel most comfortable with," Hughes said.

The extreme reverse platoon split is nitpicking, of course, because of how great Phil Hughes has been for the Twins this season. He's been a fantastic investment for the Twins so far. He's earning $8 million this year and each of the next two, and he's been well worth that bargain contract.

"He's been impressive for me. You can't talk much -- unless it's positive -- about Hughes," Ryan said. "He pounds strikes. He's had good presence out there, he's had good damage control. ... It's good."

Derek Wetmore is the senior editor for 1500ESPN.com. His previous stops include MLB.com and the Minnesota Daily.
Email Derek | @DerekWetmore
In this story: Phil Hughes
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