Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 11/9/14

Collin McHugh‘s nine-strikeout debut against Colorado at the end of August (box) created reason for enthusiam apropos the Mets right-hander. His third major-league start, Monday night in Washington (box), was decidedly more challenging.

Here are three lessons regarding Collin McHugh from that same Monday start.

Lesson One: Slider Location Is Probably Important for McHugh
McHugh’s slider does not have particularly sharp break or particularly excellent velocity. As a result, he’s (a) unlikely to induce as many chase swings with it as another pitcher and (b) more likely to be punished for mistakes. As a further result, McHugh’s ability to locate his slider will have no little effect on his overall success.

Here, for example, are two sliders — towards the outer part of the strike zone and just below it — by which Ryan Zimmerman is unconvinced.

Number one:

And number two:

Here’s another slider from that same first-inning plate appearance, still below the strike zone but less outside. This one induces a swinging-strike.

And here’s a fourth slider from McHugh to Zimmerman, this time on the inner half of the plate. Zimmerman both (a) swings at it and (b) hits it 430 feet.

Another slider from McHugh — also on the inside half, but even higher than this one — was hit for a home run by Kurt Suzuki before this second Zimmerman at-bat, too.

Here’s a chart, courtesy Texas Leaguers, including all the pitches thrown by McHugh to Zimmerman on Monday. The sliders, and their corresponding results, are all marked.

None of this, of course, represents anything definitive regarding McHugh’s sliders — and we’re always, of course, speaking in probabilities — but there are certainly reasons to believe that slider location will have some real bearing on McHugh’s future success.

Lesson Two: McHugh’s Fastball Can Be an Out Pitch
Josh Kalk, now professionally a nerd with the Tampa Bay Rays, wrote a piece at The Hardball Times in February of 2009 regarding — apropos Ted Lilly, specifically — the symbiotic relationship between the slow curveball and high fastball. Kalk’s central point is this: the two look rather similar out of a pitcher’s hand, such that the one can play up owing to the presence of the other.

By itself, McHugh’s 89-90 mph fastball isn’t particularly imposing; however, in tandem with the threat of his plus curveball, it has the potential to induce more swinging-strikes than on its own. Indeed, McHugh got seven whiffs among his 47 fastballs on Monday, or about 15% (where league average is more like 6% or 7%). All of those swinging-strikes, except one, came in the top half of the generic strike zone.

Here he is striking out Zimmerman with a high fastball in the first:

Located correctly — that is, in a place where a hitter is unlikely to do much damage if he does make contact — this high fastball could be an effective one for McHugh.

Lesson Three: McHugh Needn’t Learn Sign Language
Learning sign language isn’t a priority for Collin McHugh. Any deaf person with even cursory lip-reading skills is likely to understand him.

Conisder this footage, for example, after Ian Desmond‘s fourth-inning home run off McHugh:


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