Collin McHugh’s Repertoire, Illustrated

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 on Dillon Gee, from a piece by Adam Rubin

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.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

10 Responses to “Collin McHugh’s Repertoire, Illustrated”

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  1. Eminor3rd says:

    That’s some pretty good looking stuff there! Is control/command what is holding him back? The fastball is slow but has some really good sink.

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    • Sylvan says:

      He always put up decent walk rates in the minors, although he must have been fairly raw when he was drafted because he didn’t make it to full-season ball until his age 23 season. Seems to be a guy who benefited from a conservative development track.

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  2. Ian G. says:

    The Mets outfield is a wasteland. The right side of the infield is an enigma. The bullpen is a disaster.

    But with Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Familia, Meija, Gee (if he can get back on track from the blood clot) and now perhaps McHugh (yes, yes, small sample size disclaimers, of course) added to Dickey (who isn’t particularly old by knuckleballer standards) you have to be optimistic about the rotation going forward if you’re a Mets fan.

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    • a says:

      Santana probably won’t be anywhere close to their best pitcher next year. That’s a good thing.

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      • Ian G. says:

        In a perfect world, Santana comes back and pitches effectively enough for 3 months to be worth a B- outfield prospect in a deadline trade.

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  3. Manic McReynolds says:

    Very cool, nice work.

    Could someone just clarify something for me? If I read the Pitchf/x chart correctly, McHugh’s 4-seam has on average about as much throw-side run as his 2-seam?

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  4. jesse says:

    Wow,, Collin McHugh? I thought you were breaking the repertoire of a pitcher form 1894!

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  5. NM says:

    McHugh actually did throw a changeup, which is that “mystery pitch” shown in the Chatwood AB. Look at his Speed x Horizontal movement chart and you’ll see a distinct changeup at 81 mph:

    I also looked at the PFX for that Chatwood AB and it is in fact that 1 changeup.

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  6. jon says:

    The Mets announcers said he was much like DIllon Gee but with a worse change up and better slider. So I guess that change up is just a work-in-progress that isn’t really MLB ready to throw yet.

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  7. Blueyays says:

    The second curve is the lone swinging STRIKEOUT by curve, not strike. (That would raise the question of what exactly the previous animation shows :p )

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