Three starts. Three strikeouts.
If you're looking for a big fat sign that Phil Hughes is not quite himself, that's all you need to know. Sure, the 13.94 ERA is ugly, but you'll see some funny-strange-not-ha-ha ERAs in the middle of April. The strikeouts, though ... Hughes is a strikeout pitcher. Not an overpowering strikeout pitcher, but last season he struck out 7.5 hitters per nine innings. Last season, his lowest three-start strikeout total was eight; in early August, he struck out five, three, and zero hitters over three starts.
Hey, these things happen. But when they happen after a troubling spring training, and when they happen while a pitcher isn't throwing as hard as he used to and doesn't know why ... Well, it's troubling.
As are these facts, courtesy of Joel Sherman:
The guy who has been the Yankees' bad April starter for the last six years has essentially not gotten out of that hole. So the bad start was an omen that things were not going to get better. Javier Vazquez finished April 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA last year. Chien-Ming Wang was 0-3 with a 34.50 ERA in 2009. In 2008, Hughes (0-4, 9.00) and Ian Kennedy (0-2, 8.53) both tanked April. In 2007, Kei Igawa had a 6.08 ERA in April despite a 2-1 record. Jaret Wright was 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in 2006. Wright was 2-2 with a 9.15 ERA in April 2005 and Kevin Brown was 0-3 with a 6.63 ERA.
Of course, April's not over and Hughes might pitch a couple of gems in his next two starts. If he gets them.