In defense of David Huff

Looking at our sidebar poll, I see David Huff is the pitcher we would LEAST like to see in the Indians rotation in August.  I have to object.  But first, it is necessary to clarify the question a bit.  There are many paths by which someone could end up in (or not in) the rotation by August - injury forced necessity, solid performance, or general organizational inertia.  For example, I could say I least want to see Masterson in the rotation in August because I'd rather see him in the bullpen (I don't).  As it turns out my vote went to Laffey.  I like Laffey and always have, but there is only so much you can expect from a guy who was never a top prospect, struggles to maintain a mid-80s fastball, and after 320 innings in the big leagues has only marginally fewer strikeouts (155) than walks (128). I'm fine with Laffey as a bullpen swingman, but if he is in the rotation the only way he has gotten there is because of injury-forced necessity.  Bad for everyone.

David Huff, most likely, could only be in the rotation in August if he has done something positive.  That is how bad his 2010 was.  But prior to 2010, Huff, unlike Laffey, actually was a decent prospect.  Huff's 2008 included excellent stops at both Akron and Buffalo.  Huff was a #1 pick.  Following his 2008 campaign, Kevin Goldstein had these positives to say about him:

As a left-hander with outstanding command and control, Huff is often mislabeled as a pure finesse pitcher, but his stuff is also solid. He gained velocity throughout the year and was sitting at 90-92 mph in August while touching 94 with his fastball, which he locates with the precision of a surgeon. His best secondary offering is a very good changeup that features both deception and fade, and he also mixes in both a slider and a curveball to change the batters' eye level.

Even with his struggles at the major league level in 2009 and 2010, Huff has (based on fangraphs.com data) periodically shown an above average slider (in 2009) and changeup (in 2010).  Huff's slider abandoned him last year, and he eventually abandoned it (usage dropped from 11% to 6.4%).  Huff's pitch f/x data suggest he lost both control and movement on the pitch in 2010.  Whatever happened, both of these pitches have been and have the potential to be above average major league pitches. 

But of course we all know Huff's real sin is that he is a soft-tossing lefty.  Although actually he is not.  Ben Lindbergh put together the 2010 data a week ago and it turns out the average major league starting LHP has an average fastball velocity of just 89.4 mph.  Huff's was an above-average 90.6 in 2010, up from 90.1 in 2009.  If Huff can tweek his change and slider, regain some of his (excellent) minor league control, and figure out how to use his pitches more effectively, Huff can still be a major league pitcher.  If he does those things, I would welcome him in the rotation in August, not fear it.  And unlike the other pitchers in the poll, Huff being in the rotation in August stands the best chance of being a positive.

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