Here we go again. Another Phil Hughes start will come tonight, and once more, we’ll be crossing our fingers and hoping for something to click. As as I write this, I can’t help but feel bad, like I’m setting Hughes up for failure.
The first step in setting someone up for failure is setting low expectations, and that’s what I’m doing. After two inefficient and mostly ineffective starts, I’d be thankful to get five innings out of Hughes tonight. On a more micro level, I’d be happy just to see him throw some decent offspeed pitches and put hitters away. Even if he does these things, though, will it be enough? He is facing the Twins, not exactly offensive juggernauts and that will, even partially, temper any good that comes of tonight’s start.
A little more than a year later and we’re still in the same spot with Hughes. We’ve had two bad start after a year full of them. We’ve got the same lingering doubts, but now they’re more than lingering. Ths time, there is a more tangible threat to Hughes’s rotation security in the form(s) of Andy Pettitte and Michael Pineda. If my faith in Hughes was entering its “last legs” phase as 2011 wore on, it’s now in the “running on fumes phase” in 2012. The problems are the same–lack of non-fastball command/effectiveness and inefficiency–but no matter how many rocks are overturned, no solutions are there to be found. At times Phil Hughes dumbfounded us in the best possible ways. At others, seemingly more, he’s dumbfounded us in the worst possible ways.
Sweet sips of talent and promise have left us with the bitter taste of confused disappointment in our mouths. For better or worse, the bottle is almost empty.