There’s a narrative making the rounds that today’s Pitching Profile subject Collin McHugh just started throwing a slider. This on it’s face isn’t completely true, his repertoire included a slider two years ago, but he scrapped it in 2016 in favor of a cutter. So the “throwing a slider now” people are insane, and this is open and shut case. Right, Ralphie?” Actually, their narrative is partially correct, because while he did formerly throw a slider he didn’t go back to the pitch he scrapped before last season. He’s throwing a different slider. A reworked version he picked up from clubhouse showboat Brad Peacock. Who picked the pitch up from some shoe salesman named Jordan Jankowski, who picked his up from a decoder ring at the bottom of a box of Count Chocula. Anyway, back in 2015 when McHugh experienced a break through with the Astros, he threw his “old” slider nearly 45% of the time. It’s funny that everyone forgot he threw a slider back then, considering it accounted for such a high chunk of his usage. In fact he threw his breaking pitches, (he also has a high spin-rate curveball), 67.1% of the time. Leading his 27.2% fastball usage to rank as the second lowest in the majors behind only R.A. Dickey during the 2015 season. Before 2016 began McHugh’s usage of his ineffective slider was scrapped completely for a cutter, and an increased reliance on his hook. The results didn’t change, in fact in someways they got worse, but that’s not important, and here’s why. Fast forward to 2017, and McHugh missed a majority of the season’s first half with an elbow injury. The player that has emerged since is a completely different animal. Throwing his fastball more than 50% of time, and with a new and improved low 80’s slider, one with increased movement from his former offering. The question for today, “Is this a new and improved model or just a redesigned Grand Am?” Let’s look under the hood and see.
Scouting Report: As I mentioned in the opening McHugh is a new man in 2017, using his fastball nearly twice as much as his previous a career norm. 7% of his fastball usage is actually a sinker, while the other 43% comes from his four-seamer. The pitches are effective in different ways with the more used four-seamer missing bats over 11% of the time, while the sinker has the better batting average against at .191, despite a paltry 2.3% whiff rate. McHugh’s success has always derived from his breaking stuff. The slider has siphoned much of the whiffs away from the curveball, as the whiff rate on the hook is down nearly 50% from his career norm of 16%. The slider now generates a 22% SwStr% while holding opponents to a .065 BAA. His cutter is used mostly against lefties, and offers a change of pace to his slider. McHugh also features a change he rarely throws.
Mike Trout – fastball on the outside at 90 MPH, ball, slider on the outside and low at 82 MPH, ball 2, fastball at 90 MPH misses high, ball 3, fastball at 91 MPH, strike 1, another fastball at 91 off the plate. Walk for Trout.
Albert Pujols – 91 MPH fastball on the outer-half, strike 1, 92 MPH fastball fouled back, strike 2, slider at 83, bounces before the plate for a ball, and Trout advances on a passed ball, 80 MPH slider is fouled off, high fastball at 90 MPH is fouled off, 1-2 count, 87 MPH cutter is hit on the ground for the second out.
Kole Calhoun – 72 MPH curveball misses on the outside, ball 1, high fastball at 89 is fouled off, strike 1, 89 MPH fastball misses up, ball 2, curveball at 74 misses on the outside, ball 3, 91 MPH fastball hit foul, 3-2 count, 91 MPH fastball is hit hard off the wall in right for an RBI double, 1-0 Angels.
Andrelton Simmons -91 MPH on the outer-part of the plate, strike 1, 74 MPH curveball bounces in the dirt and Calhoun advances to third, ball 1, 89 MPH fastball fouled off, strike 2, 80 MPH slider fouled off, 83 MPH slider hit on a rope to leftfield for the final out of the inning.
Not the most efficient inning for McHugh. He nibbled a lot but only had one ball hit hard on the Calhoun double. Did generate a couple of grounders, and didn’t get any favors from his catcher Evan Gattis who allowed two balls to pass.
Luis Valbuena – 90 MPH fastball on the outside, ball 1, 90 MPH fastball gets a swinging strike 1, 90 MPH fastball is bunted foul, 75 MPH fastball is fouled off, 77 MPH curveball is hit to right for a hit.
C.J. Cron – 86 MPH cutter misses up and away, ball 1, 87 MPH changeup is hit to left for another base hit, runners on first and second.
Martin Maldonado – fastball at 88 gets a swinging strike 1, 88 MPH fastball is fouled off, strike 2, 82 MPH slider gets a swinging strike 3.
Kaleb Cowart – Fastball at 90 MPH is fouled off, strike 1, another fastball at 90 MPH is fouled back, strike 2, curveball at 76 MPH bounces off the plate, ball 1, 82 MPH slider is foul tipped, 1-2 count, curveball on the outside at 74 for ball 2, high outside fastball at 91 MPH is fouled off, curveball at 75 MPH is dropped on the armside black for strike 3.
Cameron Maybin – cutter at 85 MPH is hit to center for the final out of the inning. Second consecutive at bat where Maybin has hit the first pitch for an out.
Better innings for McHugh who does an excellent job of changing speeds between his three main offerings (fastball, slider, curve), and mixing in his lesser used secondaries (cutter and changeup). Got some swinging strikes on both the fastball, slider, and curveball that inning.
Mike Trout – curveball at 75 for a strike over the inner-part of the plate, strike 1, fastball at 88 fouled back, strike 2, 75 MPH curveball bounces off the plate, ball 1, slider at 80 MPH low and outside, ball 2, high fastball at 90 MPH gets a swinging strike 3.
Albert Pujols – High fastball at 91 MPH, ball 1, fastball at 91 MPH gets a swinging strike 1, slider on the outside, ball 2, 87 MPH cutter is fouled off, strike 2, 82 MPH slider gets a swinging strike for out number 2.
Kole Calhoun – curveball at 76 on the outer-part of the plate for strike 1, 92 MPH fastball is popped up to left field for the final out.
Great inning for McHugh as he sat the middle of the Angels order down 1-2-3. Got strikeouts from Trout and Pujols, sitting down 4 of the last last 6 batters on strikes.
Andrelton Simmons – 74 MPH curveball brushes back Simmons, ball 1, sinker at 89 hit to second for the first out.
Luis Valbuena – curveball at 75 MPH just misses outside, ball 1, fastball at 90 MPH, strike 1, 90 MPH fastball down the heart of the plate is skied to left for the second out.
C.J. Cron – 74 MPH curveball is hit foul, strike 1, 89 MPH fastball on the outside, ball 1, fastball down Main St. at 91 MPH fouled back. 81 MPH slider is hit to left, and Fisher makes a great dive to catch the ball before it drops.
Another 1-2-3 inning for McHugh as he got weak contact for all three outs, 1 on the ground, and two flies to left. McHugh’s most efficient inning today.
Martin Maldonado – fastball at 88 misses high and outside, ball 1, cutter at 87 is hit foul, strike 1, 76 MPH curveball gets him swinging for strike 2, 90 MPH fastball on the outside, ball 2, slider at 82 MPH on the outside, fouled off, 74 MPH curveball way inside, 3-2 count, slider at 81 gets a swinging strike 3, as he sits down Maldonado for the second time.
Kaleb Cowart – 74 MPH curveball misses outside, ball 1, fastball at 89 MPH is taken for strike, 81 mph slider is taken on the outer-part of the plate for strike 2, 81 MPH slider on the inside gets an ugly swinging strike 3.
Cameron Maybin – curveball inside for ball 1, slider over the middle for strike 1, curveball bounces off the plate for ball 2, fastball on the outside taken for a ball, fastball at 90 MPH over the plate, 3-2 count, 80 MPH slider is hit to the third baseman J.D. Davis for the final out.
Another nice inning from McHugh as he’s now sat down 12 in a row. McHugh is dealing right now, working all over the zone getting swingings, and strikes on his fastball and two brekaing balls. He’s really kept the Angels off balance since the first.
Mike Trout – cutter on the inside at 85 MPH for ball 1, fastball on the outside is taken for strike 1, curveball is low and inside, ball 2, another curveball at 74 at the knee is taken for ball 3, 85 MPH changeup is taken for ball 4 on the outside. Walk, Trout’s second of the game.
Albert Pujols – fastball on the outer half is taken for strike 1, another outside fastball at 90 is taken for a ball, 81 MPH slider is way outside for ball 2, 87 MPH changeup is taken for strike 2, 79 MPH slider high and inside is fouled off, strike 2, 2-2 count, high fastball at 89 gets a swinging strike 3 from Pujols.
Kole Calhoun – 90 fastball is taken high for strike 1, 90 MPH fastball is fouled back, strike 2, fastball at 90 MPH is too high, ball 1, another high fastball at 89 misses, ball 2, 2-2 count, 81 MPH slider in on the hands is fouled off, another high fastball misses, 3-2 count, strikes out Calhoun on a 75 MPH curveball. Nasty break got a swinging strike 3.
Andrelton Simmons – curveball at 76, an Simmons holds up, ball 1, 89 fastball, high and on the outer-part of the plate is hit to right for the final out of the inning. McHugh’s day is over at 100 pitches.
6 IP, 3 Hits, 2 Walks, 1 Run, 8 Ks, 100 Pitches, 62 Strikes, 11 Swinging Strikes, Win, Game Score 71
Summary: Impressive start from McHugh, he did an excellent job changing speeds, working to both sides of the plate, and keeping hitters off balance with his fastball, two breaking pitches, and working in the cutter and change when needed. Started slow in the first two innings as 4 of the first 7 batters reached base. From there he sat down 12 consecutive and 15 of the final 16, only allowing Mike Trout to reach base to lead off the 6th. If there’s an area for improvement it might be nibbling a little less on the outer half with his fastball early in counts. But he started to get a few of those first pitch, gloveside fastball’s to righthanders called for strikes as the game wore on. All in all I would be more than happy to start McHugh in just about any start going forward. An absolute buy if he’s available in your league.
Updated Top 100 SP
(rankings for ROS based on 12-team Roto)
Disabled List (Ranking When Active): Alex Wood, LAD (GOAT), James Paxton, SEA (5), Noah Syndergaard, NYM (8), Lance McCullers, HOU (16), Danny Salazar, CLE (20), David Price, BOS (24), Danny Duffy, KC (27), Johnny Cueto, SF (28), Jon Lester, CHC (32), Brandon McCarthy, LAD (42), Jacob Faria, TB (43), Felix Hernandez, SEA (54), Aaron Sanchez, TOR (66), Reynaldo Lopez, CWS (76), Scott Feldman, CIN (84), Adam Wainwright, STL (87), Matt Harvey, NYM (99) Brandon Finnegan, CIN (100)
- This week we welcome the returns of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and technically Yu Darvish (yesterday). I discounted Kershaw’s rank below where it might usually be because I’m a little nervous about a skipped start or two late in September.
- If you’re in a quality starts league, or looking for a ratio-conscious streamer with a good chance at a win Zach Davies is a target that’s gone a little under the radar. Over his last 12 starts, Davies is 8-3 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .228 BAA, and a 6.3% Bb%. He’s not going to get you many strikeouts, but he’s been helping teams in a lot of other valuable areas.
- The Twins Kyle Gibson enters the list at 95, and over the last month he’s out-pitched his 4.29 ERA. Over his last 6 starts, not including yesterday’s, he has a 9 K/9, 2.5 Bb/9, and 3.64 xFIP. Another streamer name to keep in mind down the stretch.
- Is it too late to believe in Luis Castillo? Over the last 6 starts he’s striking out 9 per with a 2.41 ERA. He’s getting lucky, but right now he falls into the lucky until further notice category. He’s helping make his own luck to a certain extent, generating groundballs at a 55% rate while missing bats 12.4% of the time.
- Over the last month Corey Kluber (67% contact% – 16.6% SwStr%), Danny Salazar (67.1% contact% – 16.7% SwStr%), Zack Godley (67.8% contact% – 13.4% SwStr%) and Dylan Bundy (69.2% contact% – 15.5% SwStr%) all have contact rates under 70% and rank within the top 10 in SwStr%.
- Could I include John Lackey on this list? Yes. Will I? NO.
- After striking out 10 yesterday and looking like he’s going to be in the rotation for the remainder of the season Chris Stratton is a name I’m paying attention to. Other names to not overlook are Jake Junis, Rafael Montero, and the untrustworthy Blake Snell.