In the first two games of the series the Yankees threw lefties on the road. Now they’ll flip that by throwing a righty at home. The Twins will counter by trotting out a different lineup than they did in Games 1 and 2. While righties Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer presented the largest dangers in those games, the lefties will bat higher in the lineup tonight. Phil Hughes will face the lefty gauntlet in Joe Mauer,Jim Thome , and Jason Kubel.
In his first full season as a starter, Phil Hughes had problems at times keeping the ball in the park. His 1.28 HR/9 ranked sixth among qualified AL starters. Most of those came at home and against left-handed pitching. Of the 25 home runs he allowed, 17 came against left-handed pitching (1.68 HR/9). Twenty of them came at home (1.69 HR/9). He also strikes out fewer hitters and walks more when pitching at Yankee Stadium.
If Hughes is going to be successful against those three big lefties, he’ll have to attack them with his secondary stuff. While his fastball rates well in pitch type values (16.7, 0.88 per nine), lefties have hit it out of the park 12 times.
He has also used the cutter to bust lefties inside, but he has paid when leaving it out over the plate.
Only one time has a lefty hit a curveball for a home run, and no lefty hit his changeup for a home run all season. That changeup might play an important role in this game. If Hughes can locate his cutter he can use that, but if he doesn’t he’ll need another pitch. His changeup has come along very slowly because he throws it so infrequently — just 2.7 percent of the time. Looking at the strike zone plot, it’s easy to see why.
Hughes started going to the changeup more often as the season progressed; he threw it 7.1 percent of the time during September and October. He is also throwing the curveball more often, a pitch on which opponents hit just two home runs this season — though it graded out poorly per pitch type values, -5.0 (-1.2 per nine). If Hughes can command these two off-speed pitches, his fastball, which already rates highly, he will be even more effective.
All graphs from Joe Lefkowitz’s PitchFX tool.