|Phil Hughes set a major league record for walk-strikeout|
ratio last season for the Twins.
Assuming Hughes' 2014 was not a mirage, and assuming good health, that's a very reasonable price tag.
But he's a pitcher, and five-year contracts for pitchers seldom work well for the team. The odds are that at least one of those seasons will be marred by injury and/or ineffectiveness.
Hughes, predictably, believes he can sustain his brilliant 2014. From Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press:
“I made a lot of changes last year. I feel like last year wasn’t just a shot in the dark and I got lucky. I felt like I advanced a lot as a pitcher. I feel like I had a more mature approach with what I wanted to do. I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t repeat that. It wasn’t just like I went out and did everything I had been doing and things happened to work out better or I got into a bigger ballpark and didn’t give up as many home runs. I made a lot of changes to my approach and to what I was trying to do out there, so I’m confident I’ll be able to repeat that if not get better.”
Nobody ever says: Hey, that's probably as good as I can do. Or at least no successful major leaguer says that, even if it's true. They get where they are by denying their limitations. To twist Adam Savage's phrase, they reject my reality and substitute their own.
And as I noted here last week, Hughes did indeed make some pretty significant changes in pitch selection last season.
Fact: Phil Hughes last year struck out 11.43 men for each walk he allowed. This is a major league record. All the years, all the pitchers, and no qualifier (one inning per team game) has had a better walk-strikeout ratio -- not Greg Maddux, not Pedro Martinez, not Warren Spahn or any other of the many great pitchers who have toiled on major league mounds.
This is not a particularly daring prediction: Hughes isn't going to repeat that.
And the more he regresses from that record level of performance, the more help he's going to need from his defense, and ... well, if you read this blog, you already know what I think about the projected Twins defense.
It should be said: He can regress and still be worth the extension. There's more reason to be optimistic about Hughes than there is about Ricky Nolasco or even Ervin Santana. For one thing, when this extension is over, Hughes will be the age those two are now. And while Hughes reached the majors at a young age, he wasn't so wildly successful that he was overworked while still physically developing.
I still want to see this team move some veteran starters out of the way of the young guns. But Hughes is not on that list.