It has not been a particularly great start to Collin McHugh’s career with the Atlanta Braves, but diving deeper, the metrics are in his favor.
Early season stats can be misleading for a lot of players, but particularly relief pitchers who can see their ERA skyrocket or drop significantly from a single outing. That appears to be the case for Atlanta Braves new relief pitcher Collin McHugh.
Sure, he’s had a couple of outings that look really bad considering how they affected the game.
On Opening Day, he came in with two on and two out looking to put out a fire, and hung a slider to Brandon Drury leading to a three-run homer that ultimately decided the game.
And then on Saturday against the Marlins, he only recorded one out in the sixth innings while allowing 3 earned runs on 3 hits and a walk.
The three hits weren’t the issue there. Joey Wendle got up to a cutter five inches above the zone, he tried to triple up on Jazz Chisholm up in the zone and Jazz made a good adjustment after badly missing the first two, and then Jesus Aguilar poked a ball the other way on a cutter nicely placed on the outside corner.
It was the walk to the number eight hitter, Jon Berti, that was frustrating.
Sometimes good hitters are going to make good hits, but walking the eight-place batter is unacceptable.
Those are two bad outings in his six appearances and they’re glaring because they directly led to a loss.
That has some Braves fans asking why they even signed this guy and why is he all of a sudden bad?
Braves: Collin McHugh’s Metrics Show He’s Just Fine
Outside of those two bad appearances, McHugh has allowed 1 earned run on 3 hits and 1 walk with 11 strikeouts in 5.1 innings.
On the season, he’s struck out 12 batters and walked just two in 6 innings pitched.
He’s still getting a ton of chases, swings-and-misses, strikeouts, and isn’t walking a ton of batters.
The only concerning thing so far is that when he is getting hit, he’s getting hit hard. His HardHit% is in the 14th percentile, compared to last year when it was in the 96th percentile.
Part of that could be because he’s leaning on the cutter a lot more this year instead of his slider.
For whatever reason, he’s throwing his cutter 55 percent of the time this year and batters are hitting .462 against that pitch.
While last year he threw his slider 53 percent of the time and batters hit just .177 against that pitch.
Perhaps that’s just new catchers needing to learn what works best for McHugh, but it seems pretty obvious he needs to start leaning on the slider a little bit more.
Either way, there’s no reason to be overly concerned about McHugh. Perhaps he won’t be as dominant as he was in 2021, because that was truly a dominant season, but more than not, he’s still going to be a dependable arm coming out of the bullpen.