Game Recap #158: Staff Aces 2, Hard-Luck Losers 1

Staff Ace Phil Hughes.

Assuming that was the last we've seen of Phil Hughes for this year, he finished in style.  Eight innings, one run, five hits, no walks, five strikeouts.  If you go by game scores, it was (barely) his best game of the season with a score of 73.  He had two 70s, three 71s, and two 72s, though, so it's not like this game stood head and shoulders above the rest.

Hughes simply had an outstanding season.  The low number of walks and the strikeout/walk ratio are what gets everyone's attention, and justifiably so.  But it was a fine season all-around:  16-10, 3.52, 1.13 WHIP, 186 strikeouts in 209.2 innings.  It's arguably the best season a Twins pitcher has had since Johan Santana was traded.  We've given the Twins front office a lot of criticism, so in fairness we need to point out that this looks like an excellent signing.

The rain resulted in Hughes not going back out to pitch the ninth, which left him one-third of an inning shy of 210 innings pitched on the season, a figure which would have given him a half-million dollar bonus.  There has been much said already, and there probably will be more, about whether the Twins should go ahead and give him the bonus anyway.  For whatever it's worth, here's my opinion.  I will not criticize them if they don't.  The deal was 210 innings, not 209.2, and the Twins did not pull any shenanigans to keep him from getting to 210 innings.  It's just the way it worked out.  On the other hand, if they don't give him the bonus, they'll probably get a half-million dollars worth of bad publicity for being cheapskates, and given the state of this team, they really don't need any more bad publicity.  In addition, I don't know how upset Hughes will be with them if they don't pay the bonus, but he'll obviously be happier with them if they do, and it's worth something to keep your Staff Ace happy.  I won't criticize them if they don't pay the bonus, but I think the smarter thing to do would be to go ahead and pay it.

I do have to feel a little sorry for Vidal Nuno, who is now 0-7 as a Diamondback.  He's 0-7 with a 3.76 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.  In eight of his fourteen starts for Arizona, he's given up two runs or fewer.  In those starts, he was 0-2 with six no-decisions.  He had four starts where he went seven innings and gave up two runs or fewer.  In those starts, we was 0-1 with three no-decisions.  He had one other start where he went six innings and gave up one run.  He got a no-decision in that game.  I hope the Diamondbacks front office is not thinking that he doesn't know how to win or some other nonsense.

I wonder if the possibility of holding Hughes back for the Detroit series ever crossed Gardy's mind.  I'm not advocating it--the rotation worked out the way it worked out, and I really don't think they should've changed it just because Detroit is fighting for a playoff spot.  It would've been nice to have Hughes for the Tigers series, but that's just not the way it happened.

The Twins do go to Detroit to close out their season with a four-game series.  The Tigers hold a two-game lead over Kansas City.  They'll make the playoffs regardless, but it would be fun to see the Twins play spoilers here, or at least make the Tigers back into the division title.  It seems unlikely, but the Twins took two of three the last time these teams played, so you never know.  Let's end the season on a six-game winning streak!  We're still on track for 72-90.

11 thoughts on “Game Recap #158: Staff Aces 2, Hard-Luck Losers 1”

  1. For comparison, Phil Hughes has had a rWAR of 4.3 this year, which is roughly the same as Liriano in 2010 (4.4) and Baker in 2011 (4.3). Liriano had fewer wins and innings and the same ERA+ (112) but was more dominant with fewer hits allowed per inning and more strikeouts. Baker was much better but had his season cut short by injury (129 ERA+). Baker also had a 112 ERA+ in 172+ innings in 2008. I would say Hughes' season has been as good as those two. Carl Pavano's 2010 was just a notch below: 221 innings with a 109 ERA+ and 4.0 rWAR. Hughes is currently tied for 9th in the AL in rWAR and WHIP. His walk rate of 0.6868 per 9 is tied for 5th best of the modern era (since 1901) with Cy Youngs's 1904 season and tied for 37th best all-time. Saberhagen's 1994 season is the only one post 1920 better than Hughes.

      1. I wonder how many third or even second place votes he will get for the Cy Young. His K/BB rate might attract some attention but most voters seem to mirror rWAR rather than fWAR.

    1. Saberhagen's 1994 season is the only one post 1920 better than Hughes.

      Except for Carlos Silva's 2005, the best BB/9 among qualified pitchers in the modern era.

  2. The Twins will never pay the bonus. It would set a terrible precedent. Every player would be looking at contract bonuses and seeing how "close" they got to fulfilling it. How close is close enough? 1/3 of an inning? 2/3 of an inning? 1 inning? Plus, Hughes wouldn't tell the Twins to keep the bonus if he only got one more out because he "almost" didn't get the bonus. The only thing I could see happening is letting Hughes pitch an inning in relief on Saturday or Sunday, but they've already said they won't do that for fear of injury. I'd scoff at that if it weren't for they Twins' luck with injuries over the last decade, especially with pitchers. You start messing around with a normal schedule for noncompetitive reasons, you're just asking for trouble.

      1. Yes. It's not as though they shut him down recently to avoid paying the bonus. That would be a Calvin Griffith move.

        Also, what Beau says below. That would be a win-win.

Comments are closed.