In four starts Phil Hughes has done everything humanly possible to prove that the Yankees gave the right guy the number five slot in the starting rotation. Stats in early May – especially for guys who only appear once every five games – don't portend much for how the season will play out. But they are all we have to go on. And in Hughes' case, they are even better than his biggest fans could have seriously expected.
In four starts, Hughes has compiled the best BAA (.122) of any starter in the majors.
Having given up only one XBH all year (a solo HR to none other than Hideki Matsui in Hughes' season debut against the Angels), Hughes has also held opposing hitters to the lowest SLG (.159) and OPS (.393) of any starter.
His WHIP (.880) is sixth lowest in the majors (and second in the AL behind Seattle's Doug Fister) and together with the low SLG % to which he is holding batters translates into very few instances in games where the opposing team appears able to generate much momentum. It's simply rare that anyone gets into scoring position against him.
Averaging just over 6.1 IP/G, Hughes is not going as deep into games as some of the marquee names whose stats he is rivaling early in the season (Halladay, Lincecum, the resurgent Zito, etc.), but simply being in this company with a handful of starts under his belt is more than anyone could have expected. Especially given the fact that – at 24 – he is still one of the youngest starters around (tied for 4th youngest in the AL after Rick Porcello, Brett Anderson, and Brian Matusz).
Beyond everything else, Hughes is helping cover for the failings of Javier Vazquez and is presumably building up a reservoir of confidence to dip into whenever the inevitable dips in performance hit him as the long season wears on. How he handles those dips and how long they last will be very interesting to see. But for now, he is winning more than his fair share of games for the Yankees and making Cashman and Girardi look good for pulling him out of the pen when they did.