I’ve seen him pitch a few times in spring training, and a couple of years ago I saw him pitch a little bit. I think for the most part the comparisons are pretty well-founded. We both throw four pitches — curveball, slider, changeup, fastball. He’s got a little more of a sinker than I do. I probably have a little bit more of a curveball than he does. Otherwise, it’s pretty similar.
Actually, he’s got a much better changeup than I do, too.
Collin McHugh made his major-league debut on Thursday, and said debut was rather excellent, turns out. The 25-year-old right-hander struck out nine while walking just one in seven shutout innings of a Rockies offense that, while not among the league’s elite, is still full of men compensated pretty handsomely to play baseball (box).
Here’s (mostly) what McHugh threw, accompanied by Action Footage™ of same.
The PITCHf/x algorithm suggests that McHugh threw six two-seam and 55 four-seam fastballs. While there might be two distinct pitches there — in fact, McHugh himself notes that he throws a sinker in addition to a four-seamer — there wasn’t much in the way of practical difference among the majority of these fastballs. Of those 61 pitches classified as some sort of fastball, 60 were thrown between 86-93 mph without much in the way of difference in movement — and most of those sat at around 87-91.
Among the outliers was this one — to opposing pitcher Tyler Chatwood in the third inning — thrown at 81 mph with considerably more armside run and considerably less rise than the others. It’s possible that this is a changeup, but there aren’t really any other pitches from McHugh’s start that resemble it. (Unfortunately, there’s no slow-motion footage of this or the next.)
There was this slightly strange pitch, too, Chris Nelson in the second inning — also thrown with more run and less rise, but also, at 92 mph, the third-fastest pitch thrown by McHugh on Thursday:
As one can see here, PITCHf/x classified two distinct pitches both as curveballs — a slower, more traditional curve and also a more slider/cutter-type of pitch (which McHugh himself calls a slider). Here we’ll deal with the slower one.
McHugh threw 23 of these slower curves, all between 68-73 mph, 13 of which were to left-handed batters and 10 more to right-handers. While McHugh mentions throwing a changeup, this is appears to be the pitch — or was on Thursday, at least — the pitch that he uses to counteract the left-handed platoon advantage, being as it has considerable vertical break (i.e. drop) relative to the gloveside movement. This was mostly borne out in his usage: McHugh threw a couple fewer pitches overall to left-handed batters (49 vs. 51) and threw a few more curevballs to them.
Four of the 10 curves to right-handed were called strikes. Surprisingly — only because it seemed like more than that — only two of his curves to left-handers induced whiffs.
Here’s a 3-2 curve to Tyler Colvin:
And the lone swinging strike via curve to a right-handed batter, Wilin Rosario in the seventh:
McHugh threw 16 sliders, all between 81-87 mph and all but one of which — a fourth-inning pitch to Herrera — were to right-handed batters, which is a characteristic usage pattern for this sort of pitch, defined by lateral break. While called a slider, Hughes’ version of the pitch doesn’t have the sort of bite one might expect from a traditional sort of slider, which is probably why it is referred to as a “cutter” in some instances.
Six of McHugh’s sliders were to Jordan Pacheco alone. Here’s McHugh’s lone swinging-strike on one of them (in the first inning):
And here’s McHugh’s fastest slider, at 87 mph, from that same Pacheco plate appearance:
While McHugh notes the presence of a changeup in his repertoire, not only were none of his pitches from Thursday classified as a changeup by PITCHf/x, but there also wasn’t even really a cluster of pitches to which one can point.
Data from Brooks Baseball was helpful in the composition of this post.