Collin McHugh

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Collin Alexander McHugh

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Biographical Information[edit]

P Collin McHugh was selected in the 18th round of the 2008 amateur draft by the New York Mets. He made his professional debut that year and reached the major leagues with the Mets late in the 2012 season. In his major league debut on August 23rd, he gave up just 2 hits in 7 innings against the Colorado Rockies, walking 1 and striking out 9, but the game was still scoreless when he left and he ended with a no-decision as the Mets eventually lost the game, 1-0. His other appearances did not go so well, however: he pitched 8 times, including 4 starts, with a record of 0-4, 7.59 in 21 1/3 innings. He returned to the minor leagues at the start of the 2013 season, then was called up on May 18th. He made three appearances, including one start, going 0-1, 10.29 and was designated for assignment and traded to the Colorado Rockies on June 18th, in return for OF Eric Young Jr. He made 4 starts for the Rockies with little success, ending up at 0-3, 9.95, for a combined line of 0-4, 10.04. He did better in AAA with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, where he was 2-2, 4.63 in 9 starts. After the season, he was claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros on December 18th.

McHugh started the 2014 season back in AAA with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. He had no decisions and a 4.50 ERA in 14 innings when he was called up to Houston to replace the injured Scott Feldman on April 22nd. He had the best start since his debut: facing the Seattle Mariners, he struck out the first three batters he faced and eventually racked up 12 Ks in 6 2/3 innings to earn his first career win after 8 losses, 5-2. He did not walk a batter and allowed no runs on 3 hits during his stint. He was just as sharp in his second outing on April 27th, pitching 8 2/3 innings in a 5-1 win over the Oakland Athletics. He completed what turned out to be a very solid rookie season by winning American League Rookie of the Month honors for September, when he went 4-0, 1.59 with a tremendous 25/1 K/W ratio. As a result of this strong finish, he ended the year with a winning record, 10-9, to go along with a 2.73 ERA in 25 starts. In 154 2/3 innings, he gave up 117 hits and struck out 157 while walking 41. It was a dominant performance from a completely unexpected source.

By winning his first three decisions of 2015, McHugh quietly put together a ten-game winning streak over two seasons, the longest by an Astros pitcher since Wade Miller had put together a string of 12 straight wins in 2002. After 8 starts, his record was 5-1, 3.38, putting to rest any ideas that his success of the previous year had been a fluke. In fact , he finished the year with a record of 19-7, 3.89 finishing second in the American League in wins only behind teammate Dallas Keuchel. He pitched 203 2/3 innings in 32 starts and struck out 171. He made two starts in the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals, winning Game 1 on October 8th, 5-2, but losing Game 5, 7-2, on October 14th as the Astros were eliminated from the postseason.

On August 19, 2016, he did something no other starting pitcher in the modern era had ever done: allow four home runs before recording a single out. Facing the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards, he allowed a homer to Adam Jones on his first pitch of the game, then after giving up a single to Hyun Soo Kim, he allowed three consecutive homers to Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. He managed to stay in the game in spite of the outburst, pitching 3 innings during which he gave up 7 runs on 9 hits, but he escaped with a no-decision as Houston eventually won the game, 15-8. He went 13-10, 4.34 in 33 starts that season, pitching 184 2/3 innings, as the team took a step back and missed the postseason. He then missed the first half of 2017 with an injury while the team got off to a great start, building an insurmountable lead in the AL West. The one area of concern was starting pitching, though, as the team was winning even though it had to patch together a starting rotation because of various injuries. His return to the starting rotation on July 22nd was therefore a welcome development, given his success over the past three seasons. In his first game, he allowed 4 runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles and ended up with a no-decision. He recorded his first win of the season on August 19th when he pitched 6 innings in a 3-0 defeat of the Oakland Athletics. On the season, he went 5-2, 3.55 in 12 starts and was moved to the bullpen for the postseason. He made a valuable contribution in his first outing during the first two rounds, in Game 3 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees on October 16th. He pitched the last four innings of an 8-1 loss, allowing no hits or runs, thus giving the other members of the bullpen some precious rest. He also appeared in Game 5 of the World Series, when Houston used 7 different pitchers in a wild 13-12 win in 10 innings. He was the third pitcher used by manager A.J. Hinch, succeeding starter Keuchel and reliever Luke Gregerson with the game tied 4-4 in the 5th. He gave up a three-run homer to Cody Bellinger that inning, but Jose Altuve turned the same trick on Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the frame to tie the game anew. He then pitched a scoreless 6th and Brad Peacock replaced him in the 7th. He was thus part of the World Series-winning squad.

With the Astros already rich in starting pitchers and having gotten even richer by adding Gerrit Cole in the off-season, McHugh moved to the bullpen in 2018. He was doing a great job in the early going, putting up an ERA of 0.68 over his first 10 appearances. On May 5th, he made history of sorts, by becoming the first pitcher in the 21st century to use a bullpen cart to go to the mound. The Arizona Diamondbacks had reintroduced the contraption, that had been popular in the 1970s, as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations that year, but no relief pitcher had yet used it in a game. McHugh decided to take advantage of the available ride when he was called upon to start the bottom of the 6th. He pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in a 4-3 loss that day. He made 58 appearances that season, all in relief, going 6-2, 1.99 and pitching 72 1/3 innings. In the postseason, he pitched 4 times without allowing a run. He earned the win in Game 3 of the Division Series against the Cleveland Indians on October 8th, after relieving Dallas Keuchel who had pitched the first 5 innings and left with Cleveland ahead, 2-1. McHugh pitched two scoreless innings while the Astros exploded for 9 runs in the 7th and 8th innings on their way to an 11-3 win that completed a three-game sweep. He also pitched the final inning of Houston's 7-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS, but they then lost the next four games and were eliminated.

In 2019, McHugh was used as a swingman by Houston, making 8 starts in his 35 appearances. He logged 74 2/3 innings, but his ERA shot up to 4.70 and his record was 4-5. he was not used in the postseason after his season ended early due to a right elbow injury. He was a free agent after the season and on March 5, 2020 signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox for $600,000. He was not expected to be ready for the start of the season. He then explained that he was sorry not to have stood up to stop the Astros systematic cheating in 2017, when they had set up a system to steal their opponents' signs, a scandal that had only been exposed after the 2019 season. In July 2020, he announced that he was opting out of the upcoming season, as many other players had done, due to concerns over health and safety. When he returned to action in 2021, it was with the Tampa Bay Rays, after signing a one-year contract with them in the off-season. He was once again a swingman and had a very good season, going 6-1, 1.55 in 37 games, including 7 starts. His K/W ratio in 64 innings was an excellent 74/12. The Rays were a bizarre team that year in terms of pitching (which is a bit of constant for them) as in spite of winning 100 games and posting the best record in the American League, they only had four pitchers log over 100 innings, and three of them posted ERAs over 5.00 on a team with a league-best ERA of 3.67: Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha and Josh Fleming. So pitcher usage was unusual in the postseason, to say the least, and Collin ended up making two appearances including a start in the Rays' upset loss to the Red Sox in the Division Series. He pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief in a stinging 14-6 loss in Game 2, giving up 3 runs, then took the mound as an opener in Game 4 on October 11th with the Rays having few better options and did pitch 2 solid innings before turning the ball over to Shane McClanahan - a rookie who was the closest thing the Rays had to an ace - who blew the game open by allowing 5 runs in two-thirds of an inning.

A free agent again after the season, on March 15, 2022 Collin signed a free agent deal for two years this time with the Atlanta Braves, worth $10 million. He was expected to be used as a more conventional late-game reliever by the Braves. Like 1B Matt Olson, who had been acquired by the Braves a day earlier, he was a local boy, having attended high school in nearby Lilburn, GA.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2015)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (2015)
  • Won one World Series with the Houston Astros in 2017

Further Reading[edit]

  • Mark Bowman: "Braves ink Atlanta product McHugh for 2 years",, March 15, 2022. [1]
  • Chris Bumbaca: "Collin McHugh says Houston Astros pitchers should have stood up to cheating", USA Today, March 6, 2020. [2]
  • Brian McTaggart: "McHugh working to build off 2015 success",, February 2, 2016. [3]

Related Sites[edit]