From PA (LoHud):
If you watched the game today, you may have noticed that Phil Hughes had a nice, tight curveball. It looked different than the curve he used to throw and I asked him about it.
Hughes explained that he’s throwing his curve with the same arm speed as his fastball. So instead of a big loop (picture Mike Mussina’s curve), it goes to the plate on a straighter plane but still has some action as it gets there. It’s how A.J. Burnett throws his curve.
Hughes devoted a lot of time in the Arizona Fall League to working on that particular pitch. “It’s hard to change because you get used to throwing a pitch a certain way,” he said. “In games, you tend to go back to what is comfortable. But they’ve been staying on me to throw the power curve more. I have to trust it and I do.”
That was the pitch he fanned Adam Dunn on.
Hughes also has changed the grip on his change-up. He throws it like a splitter.
Consistent arm speed is huge for a pitcher, as that is how you deceive the hitter. If the hitter can see a pitcher’s arm slowing down, he can adjust to a breaking pitch or a change-up.
It’s important to remember, I think, that Hughes is 22 and is still learning his craft. He said that often times last year, he went to the mound armed only with his fastball and that looping curve. Now he has a fastball, a tighter curve, a change-up he likes and a cutter that is getting better and better.
This is great information on Hughes. The general consensus is that his curveball, with its ridiculous movement, is simply too good. Because of this, hitters can see it from a mile away, especially when Hughes’ other go-to pitch was the fastball. Josh Kalk actually wrote about this issue a month ago, noting that Hughes needs to tweak his approach and mix in more high fastballs in order to offset the curve’s filthiness.
However, Hughes has gone above and beyond just mixing his pitches. He has basically changed the ones he has and the tighter, power curve, along with the cutter and split-grip change, should open up his options a bit when on the hill. I do hope that he hangs onto that circus curve though. I mean, the tighter version is fine, but with an assortment of different pitches and variations of those pitches, the big curve can still work if used in the right situation.
Also, don’t forget — Hughes does have a slider.