This season has been the worst of Jared Hughes‘ Major League career. He is arbitration eligible this offseason, should the Pirates non-tender him?
Prior to the 2016 season Jared Hughes had been a reliable relief pitcher for the Pirates. However, it was a bit of a mirage. This is due to the fact that Hughes’ peripherals the past few seasons had screamed that regression was coming.
Well, in 2016 that regression has hit Hughes and hard. This offseason Jared Hughes will be arbitration eligible. However, the question must be asked, should the Pirates non-tender Jared Hughes?
This season Jared Hughes made 2.2 million dollars. Is Hughes worth over two million dollars in 2017? I, for one, say that no he is not. I believe the Pirates should non-tender Hughes this offseason.
What made Hughes so good in recent years was a turbo sinker and great control that led to minimal walks, very few home runs, and a lot of ground balls. Entering the 2016 season Jared Hughes had a 61.6 percent ground ball rate and he averaged 2.86 BB/9 and 0.62 HR/9 in 248 2/3 innings pitched. However, Hughes has been nowhere near that pitcher this season.
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The first signs of problems for Jared Hughes came last season. While Hughes had a fantastic 63.7 percent ground ball rate, a 2.28 ERA, and averaged just 2.55 BB/9 and 0.40 HR/9, there were signs of regression. These were in his 3.81 FIP and 4.10 xFIP.
Had Jared Hughes regressed to what his FIP and xFIP were last season he would still be a useful reliever. However, he has been worse than that. And that is what has led to Hughes having the worst season of his Major League career.
In 55 innings pitched this season Jared Hughes is averaging a career low 4.75 K/9, a career high 1.00 HR/9, and 3.27 BB/9 which is the third highest total of his career. Hughes also has a career low 57.4 percent ground ball rate, a career high 4.79 FIP, and a career high 4.81 xFIP.
The biggest reason for the struggles of Hughes this season is simple. His sinker has not been nearly as effective as years past. This has led to worse control from Hughes and more hard contact being allowed.
So far this season Jared Hughes has allowed an 82 percent contact rate, which is the second highest of his career next to his rookie campaign in 2011. The 92.8 miles per hour that his sinker is averaging this season is also down from last season when it was averaging 93 miles per hour. Also, opposing hitters have a .354 wOBA and a 127 wRC+ off of Hughes’ sinker this season.
Hughes, for whatever reason, has lost the turbo sink he once had. This season, his sinker has also had the least amount of movement it has ever had during his Major League career. And that is a huge red flag.
Furthermore, the 2017 Pirate bullpen does not need Jared Hughes. A.J. Schugel, Antonio Bastardo, Felipe Rivero, Juan Nicasio, and Tony Watson all return next season. These five give the Pirates what should be the core of a very good bullpen. The Pirates will also have options such as Steven Brault and Wade LeBlanc. The 2017 bullpen has plenty of quality options without Hughes.
In my opinion, the Pirates should non-tender Jared Hughes this offseason. 2016 has been the worst season of Jared Hughes’ career, and I fear 2017 will not be much better. Furthermore, the Pirate bullpen is already in great shape for 2017 with or without Hughes.
*- Stats and pitch data via FanGraphs