Thursday, September 25, 2014

The 16 Walks of Phil Hughes

On Wednesday, Phil Hughes made his final start of the season for the Twins. It capped a memorable first year in Minnesota for the former Yankees pitcher. He signed with the club as the lesser of two big off-season upgrades to the rotation but he turned out to be the staff ace.

One of the most amazing parts of this season for Hughes has been his ability to completely eliminate walks while still being a very effective pitcher. For the entire season, Hughes had 16 walks charged to him over the course of close to 210 innings. If he doesn't pitch again this season, he will have set the record for best strike out to walk rate in the history of the game. 

There were only two games this season where Hughes allowed multiple walks, one in April and one in June. In the month of April, he had six walks over five starts. Other than that, he went through large stretches of the season with almost no walks on his record.

The Worst Walk Game of the Year
April 9th| 1st Inning: Sam Fuld (4 pitches), Jed Lowrie (6 pitches)
2nd Inning: Eric Sogard (5 pitches)
Hughes must have been a little excited for his first start at Target Field. He started off the first inning with back-to-back walks including a four pitch walk to lead-off hitter Sam Fuld. Both runners would come around to score and Hughes found himself in a 4-0 hole. The second inning didn't start off much better as Hughes walked Eric Sogard on five pitches. However, he would be stranded at second base.

The Walk King
June 1st| 2nd Inning| Brian McCann (7 pitches)
4th Inning: Brian McCann (4 pitches)
McCann would be the lone batter to draw more than one walk from Hughes this year and he did it in Hughes' return to the Bronx. McCann's first walk lead-off the second inning but he was erased on a double play to end the frame. It ended a streak of 178 batters without issuing a walk. The fourth inning was a little more costly as McCann walked with two runners already on base. A sacrifice fly two batters later would cost Hughes his second earned run of the day but that was all he allowed and the Twins won the game.

Walks Will Haunt
June 22nd| 3rd Inning| Tyler Flowers (7 pitches)
This might have been the most costly walk for Hughes this season. His walk to Flowers loaded the bases after he allowed two singles to start the frame. The floodgates opened from that point and he would go on to surrender five runs on six hits. The Twins had been up 3-0 at the beginning of the inning but the club would come back to score three in the fourth. Hughes picked up his eighth win even with the bad inning.

April Showers
April 3rd| 1st Inning | Adam Eaton (7 pitches)
April 15th| 4th Inning| Adam Lind (5 pitches)
April 20th| 2nd Inning| Alcides Escobar (7 pitches)
The first batter Hughes faced in a Twins uniform, Adam Eaton, was able to earn the first walk of the year from the right-handed pitcher. In a game that would see a lot of scoring, he would be left on base. Later in the month, Adam Lind drew a walk with first base open after a Jose Bautista double started the inning. Neither man would score. Alcides Escobar's walk came with two outs in the inning and runners on second and third. Hughes got a flyball from the next batter and escaped the frame.

One Intentional Pass
June 28th| 8th Inning| Adrian Beltre (4 pitches)
In the middle of a tight pitcher's duel with Yu Darvish, Hughes had to try and escape the eighth inning. With Texas already up 2-0, the walk loaded the bases. Three runs would score off the bats of the next two batters as Hughes suffered his fourth loss of the season.

July Losses
July 3rd| 7th Inning| Ichiro Suzuki (6 pitches)
July 19th| 7th Inning| Logan Forsythe (5 pitches)
July 30th| 3rd Inning| Omar Infante (6 pitches)
July would see Hughes lose more games than any other month. Ichiro's seventh inning walk against Hughes set-up his rough inning for the starter. The Yankees held a slim one-run lead but two consecutive hits following the walk pushed Hughes from the game. Another late inning walk to Logan Forsythe would mean result in a loss for Hughes. Forsythe lead-off the inning with a walk and the Rays would add a couple runs to their 3-0 lead. Omar Infante's walk didn't cost Hughes any runs but he still ended up losing the game to end his worst month of the year.

Season Winding Down
August 5th| 3rd Inning| Everth Cabrera (6 pitches)
August 10th| 4th Inning| Josh Reddick (6 pitches)
September 13th| 2nd Inning| John Danks (6 pitches)
Over the season's last couple months, the walks would be few and far between. Everth Cabrera worked a one-out walk in the early innings but he never left first base. One start later Josh Reddick would coax a two-out walk but he too would be left at first. It would be over a month before the next walk from Hughes. John Danks earned the free pass but Hughes would still strike out the side in the frame.

Hughes outperformed many of the expectations for him this year. Leave a COMMENT and discuss what you will remember most about his season. 

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