McHugh always dreamed of pitching in Turner Field. He was a Braves fan growing up in Georgia. His favorites included Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Greg Maddux. And Collin realized that dream late in the 2012 season, while pitching for the Mets in Atlanta.
McHugh was asked about his draft day experience. "My parents and I were sitting around the family room on Day 2 of the draft," Collin said. "I was listening to it on the radio while my dad was following it on the computer. I had just exclaimed that I was bored, to turn the radio off and watch the Braves game. My dad called me over to the computer subtly and showed me my name next to the Mets logo, 18th round. It was pretty surreal! My mom looked over at us and started crying. I guess she saw it all over my face."
Collin is married to wife Ashley, who has encouraged him and been supportive along the way. They like spending the offseason with family and going to their favorite restaurants in and around Atlanta.
He starts working out around the holidays. And he lifts "pitching-specific" weights, swims and goes biking. He doesn't like distance running, but does it on an "as needed" basis.
McHugh has a blog called "A Day Older, A Day Wiser," in which he shares insight into the life of a professional baseball player.
In 2013, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook had McHugh as the 24th-best prospect in the Mets' organization. It was his first time in the book in his six-year career.
Movie—Good Will Hunting
Food—whatever his wife, Ashley puts on the table. "She's a killer chef," McHugh said.
Collin's brother, Evan McHugh, is a singer/songwriter based out of Nashville.
McHugh was called up on August 22, 2012 and he made his MLB debut on August 23 against the Rockies at Citi Field. He pitched 7 scoreless innings and got 9 strikeouts while surrendering 2 hits and a walk. But the Mets lost 1-0.
McHugh grew up in a musical family in Georgia, the third of four children of Scott and Teresa McHugh. His older brother and sister, Evan and Eryn, are songwriters in Nashville. And his youngest brother, Colby, is a film major at Georgia State University.
"I'm the dumb jock of the family," McHugh joked.
The righthander has some artistic talents as well. McHugh grew up playing instruments like the clarinet and saxophone, and he has dabbled in the drums and now plays the guitar and ukulele.
You can hardly tell when he's on the mound, but Collin is one of the few pitchers in the Major Leagues who wears protective head gear. About halfway through 2014, McHugh started wearing a protective pad inside his cap that can't be seen from the outside and protects the right side of his head if a ball is hit back at him.
The pad, a rectangular piece of Kevlar with some padding on the inside, was developed by SST Baseball, which is owned by McHugh's high school teammate, Matt Meier. It fits inside the cap and goes across the front panel.
"It covers that spot [that's exposed] when you rotate," McHugh said. "It's hard to get the glove back up there, and the vast majority of injuries happen on that side. Hopefully, I'll never have to see if it works or not. I think it's a great product and something I'll probably never stop wearing."
McHugh hasn't been struck in the head by a batted ball but said that it's always in the back of a pitcher's mind. The pad gives him some peace of mind.
"You try not to think about it," he said. "Having something in place just in case is a nice little reassurance. If you get hit in the head, it's never going to be a pleasant experience. If it's the difference in going to the hospital or not, I'll take my chances [and use the pad]."
Meier had been using the device with high school kids the past couple of years and asked McHugh if he would be interested in wearing it. As of last season, pitchers are allowed to wear bulky protective caps, but they haven't caught on. The pad McHugh wears is hardly noticeable.
"I think pitchers need something like that, some kind of protection, so it was the perfect chance for me to try it out and see how I feel about it," he said. "After a couple of bullpens of playing catch with it, I really felt comfortable with it." (McTaggart - mlb.com - 4/20/15)
McHugh survived financially through the minors in part because of wife Ashley, who has had her own design company since 2010.
Collin and his wife, Ashley, had a son, Shaw, in the 2015 offseason.
June 19, 2016: As McHugh prepares to celebrate his first Father's Day following the birth of his son in the offseason, he's looking forward to spending some time with his father, as well, and rejoicing in what they've accomplished and what's ahead.
Scott McHugh and his wife, Teresa—who will join Collin, his wife, Ashley, and their son, Shaw, in Houston for Father's Day—helped mold McHugh into one of the most well-rounded and versatile men in baseball. They're looking forward to sharing a special Father's Day, which falls on Collin's 29th birthday. "There will be three generations of McHughs right there," Collin said. "That's something pretty special."
That's also a lot of resiliency in one place. Collin struggled to keep his career afloat for several years before sticking with the Astros, and Scott has been battling prostate cancer for more than two years. He's symptom free, Collin said, but that didn't stop the pitcher from joining veteran Jason Motte's "Let's Strike Out Cancer." Collin is the Astros' representative and helps sell "K Cancer" T-shirts, which raise money for the Jason Motte Foundation and a charity of the player's choosing. For Collin, it's MD Anderson Cancer Center.
"It's done some great things in cancer research and treatment, and my dad's going to be there the next couple of weeks consulting with some of the doctors there," Collin said. "We've got some great charities, some great institutions that are really being helped out by this." (B McTaggart - MLB.com - June 19, 2016)
Collin was born in Naperville, Illinois, and lived there for seven years before the family relocated to the Atlanta area, which is where he grew up. His parents started a nondenominational church in Alpharetta, Georgia.
His mother worked at Providence Christian Academy as the head receptionist at the school, which is where McHugh attended beginning in the sixth grade. He started playing baseball in high school at Providence Christian. But growing up, Collin played nearly every sport, with the exception of football. "Baseball for him started at 4 years old," Scott said. "He loved every sport, but he had an affinity for pitching. I was a lefthanded pitcher in my day, but it wasn't cool to play baseball in my high school, so I played football. I struck out 13 in one game, and he beat me when he was in the sixth grade, but early on, he just loved baseball."
Growing up in Atlanta, the family would attend Braves games together and revel in the magic of Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. Father and son shared the game together and talked pitching. "It's nostalgic when look I back at it and think of not only the success the Braves had and us being able to watch it, but me being able to track along with those guys as I was growing up, too," Collin said.
That's what made the events leading up to McHugh's Major League debut so special. Drafted in the 18th round by the Mets in 2008, he toiled in New York's system before finally getting the call and making his Major League debut on Aug. 23, 2012, against the Rockies. He threw seven scoreless innings, striking out nine while allowing just two hits and one walk.
"I got the nod from our skipper saying, 'You're going to the big leagues,'" McHugh said. "First call was to Ashley, who was just down the street at our apartment, and the next call was to my dad and let him know, 'Hey, it's happening. How quickly can we get tickets? How quickly can we get up there?'"
McHugh got knocked around early in his career and wasn't sure he would make it, but the Astros selected him off waivers, and he started 25 games in 2014 and went 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA. Last year, he went 19-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 32 starts.
"It was him and my mom the whole way, taking me to baseball games, taking me to basketball games and soccer games," McHugh said. "I was never really good at entertaining myself growing up, so I need some sort of sport to kind of keep me going, and they were there the whole time." (B McTaggart - MLB.com - June 19, 2016)
Dec 23, 2016: If Collin isn't the most interesting man in the world, he's certainly the most interesting player on the Astros. Who else can play the ukulele, clarinet, guitar and drums, is an avid reader, and occasionally smokes a pipe? And, he has proven to be a pretty good pitcher, too. He's gone 43-26 with a 3.71 ERA in 90 starts with the Astros over the past three years, including 13-10 with a 4.34 ERA in 2016.
He took some time to answer some questions from MLB.com about his holiday traditions:
MLB.com: What were the holidays like for you growing up? McHugh: "Lots of family time. We would always do Christmas morning with my immediate family (parents and three siblings). But I also have six aunts and uncles, 13 first cousins and too many second cousins to count. And we all get together every year around Christmas at my grandparents' house. It's been a tradition for my entire life, and there seems to be no end in sight."
MLB.com: You come from a musical family and are the son of a pastor. What was that experience like around Christmas? McHugh: "Growing up, we always had a Christmas-music service at the church. There would be hymns, traditional Christmas songs and if everyone was lucky, I would get up and do a solo in front of the congregation. I'd wear a festive sweater and totally kill it."
MLB.com: Was there a certain gift you got as a kid that still stands out to this day? McHugh: "My parents got me a drum set when I was in sixth grade. I came downstairs and it was all set up in my section of the living room. Having four kids, my parents probably saved a fortune by sorting (instead of wrapping) gifts on Christmas morning. I would play that set in the basement daily, which in retrospect, probably drove everyone in the house nuts."
MLB.com: Now that you're a dad, what kind of memories would you like to create for your son? McHugh: "I truly believe that the most important thing about Christmas morning is the proper technique to opening presents. Too many people are polite with their unwrapping of gifts. They meticulously pull the tape away from the edges and unwrap without tearing the paper. The one thing I will teach my son is to tear the paper like a crazy person. Oh, and baby Jesus, peace, good will toward men, etc."
MLB.com: What kind of gifts do you hope to get this year? McHugh: "I've asked Santa to bring me back my receding hair line. I can't seem to find a store that sells it." (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Dec 23, 2016)
In November 2018, McHugh was on the MLB roster for the Japan All-Star Series with Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
Dec. 10, 2018: McHugh proved himself a versatile member of the Astros' pitching staff last season, his first in the Majors as a full-time reliever after six seasons as a starter. He appeared in 58 games, pitching to a 1.99 ERA in just over 72 innings of work.
He's a man of many talents, clearly, and on Monday he dabbled in another realm entirely when he led a class at Emory University in Atlanta.
This isn't McHugh's first foray into temporary professor status at Emory, as he (and his financial advisor) did the same for a class last January, sharing firsthand information with undergraduates about the ins and outs of finances in modern baseball. (Cut4-MLB)
Jan 8, 2019: He's perhaps one of the most thoughtful and well-rounded players in the Major Leagues. Collin prefers to read in his down time, will scour a city for the perfect cup of coffee, plays multiple musical instruments, and can still throw a knee-bending curveball.
There's more to McHugh that fans can see from the stands, which is one of the reasons why McHugh has launched his own podcast, called "The Twelve Six," which is an ode to the break of a curveball. He wants to show the human side of the game and the men who play it with thoughtful discussions about life in the big leagues and beyond.
McHugh, whose "A Day Older, A Day Wiser" blog chronicled his rise from Minor League journeyman to key member of the Astros, debuted his podcast with a 52-minute discussion with teammate Lance McCullers Jr., one of McHugh's closest friends on the team. They talked about fashion, coffee, dogs, getting drafted, and the heroes and villains of baseball, among other things.
"I had been wanting to do something a little bit like it for a while now, for a couple of years," McHugh said.
The idea for the podcast came about when McHugh started listening to NBA player JJ Redick's a couple of years ago. The format had Redick talking to primarily other basketball players and athletes and has also branched out into pop culture and other topics. "There was this look into NBA life that you just don't get if you're not a player, if you're not in it every day," McHugh said. "I was thinking about baseball and just some of the amazing personalities that I've met over the last 10 years, decade in baseball, and how people really don't know who they are because we just don't do a great job of marketing ourselves."
McHugh, 31, said baseball players tend to be very traditional in the way they answer questions and come across on the field, but he said the game is brimming with personalities. He wanted a chance to give fans—and perspective fans—a chance to get to know the players on a different level. "Guys have become their own personal brand and developed that through social media and honestly through various different avenues—social media being the thing that's come out over the last 10, 15 years, being as important as it is and reachable as it could be," he said.
McCullers is one of the most active Astros players on social media and in the community and has built a brand among fans of being a player who enjoys fan interaction and has a passion for pets, as well has his competitiveness on the field. McCullers' Twitter followers also know he's crazy about the video game "Fortnight," admitting to McHugh on the podcast he has an addiction to the game.
"When you feel like you know somebody a little bit more, watching them on TV makes it a little bit more fun," McHugh said. "At the same time, there's another layer to it where people have misconceptions about people, and to be able to clear those up or give people another perspective and say, 'You might think this guy is like that, but listen to him talk for half an hour and then make up your mind.' Just get a different angle about it."
McHugh bought some audio recording equipment and microphones in Spring Training and recorded his podcast with McCullers in May in Arizona. He also has podcasts in the can with former teammates Charlie Morton and Jason Castro and current teammate Gerrit Cole. He plans to release one or two podcasts a month. He'd love to have discussions with Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, who McHugh watched closely growing up in Atlanta, as well as Rob Friedman, who runs the Twitter account @PitchingNinja and lives in Atlanta. Among his other podcast targets? Astros president of baseball operations and general manager Jeff Luhnow, pitching coach Brent Strom, and Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan.
"I'm still getting my feet wet in terms of being the host or the emcee, but honestly it's a conversation," McHugh said. "That's my whole deal." (B McTaggart - MLB.com - Jan 8, 2019)
June 2009: McHugh signed with scout Marlin McPhail of the Mets after they chose him in the 18th round, out of Berry College in Mount Berry, Georgia.
June 19, 2013: The Rockies sent Eric Young to the Mets, acquiring McHugh.
December 18, 2013: The Astros claimed McHugh off waivers from the Rockies.
- Jan 11, 2019: Collin and the Astros avoided arbitration agreeing to a one-year deal.
|Birth City:||Naperville, IL|
|Draft:||Mets #18 - 2008 - Out of Berry College (GA)|
McHugh has an 89-93 mph 4-seam FASTBALL with tailing action in to righthanded hitters, along with a rarely-used 87-91 mph SINKER. He also has a basic 85-88 mph CUTTER that he keeps inside on lefty batters. He has a 79-82 mph SLIDER. But his top secondary pitch is a 73-75 mph CURVEBALL with looser break. It can change hitters' eye levels. He has a very high spin rate on his exceptional curve.
2016 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 33.3% of the time; Sinker 2.2% of the time; Change 5.4%; Curve 29.9%; and Cutter 29% of the time.
2017 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 44% of the time; Sinker 5.6%; Slider 18%; Curve 20.2% of the time and Cutter 10.3% if the time.
2018 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 49.5% of the time; Sinker less than 1%; Change less than 1%; Slider 24.6%; his Curve 17.7%; Cutter 7.8%; and Slow Curve less than 1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 92.6 mph, Sinker 91.5, Change 87.6, Slider 80, Curve 76.4 mph, Cutter 88.3, and Slow Curve 69.3 mph.
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 32.6% of the time; Sinker less than 1%; Change 3.1%; Slider 43.3%; his Curve 8.1%; and Cutter 12.1% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 91.1 mph, Sinker 88.9, Change 84.3, Slider 79.9, Curve 74.9 mph, and Cutter 87.4 mph.
I BETCHA YOU DIDN'T KNOW: From 2014-2016, McHugh won more games in the American League—43 wins—than any pitcher except Cy Young winners David Price, Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez. Wow!
Collin has a rather irregular motion, with a long release that requires steadfast attention to mechanics.
- Near the end of the 2012 season, McHugh spoke about learning to deal with a right arm turned weary from more than 160 innings.
"It's not so much soreness or even a conscious thing," Collin said, "but maybe your arm angle starts to drop a little bit. It finds the path of least resistance.
"And then your mechanics just start to break down, just a little bit to where you see the ball not quite doing the same things, not quite having the same bite."
McHugh is a bulldog on the mound.
August 23, 2012: Collin threw seven scoreless innings, but a fielding mistake by center fielder Jordany Valdespin in the eighth led to a 1-0 loss to the Rockies in McHugh's Major League debut. He allowed only two hits, walked one, and struck out nine. He left with the game scoreless after throwing 100 pitches and received a no-decision.
"The anticipation's the hardest part, for sure," McHugh said. "But once the clock starts ticking and you realize you've done this a thousand times before, you get the ball in your hand and start playing catch."
2014 Season: McHugh gave Houston 16 quality starts in 25 tries while logging the lowest WHIP (1.02) of any rookie with at least 100 innings. The secret to his success: He leaned more heavily on his breaking stuff that season, while adding a tick to his fastball (91 mph) and two ticks to his curveball (73 mph).
McHugh has a world-class curveball. Most curves spin at about 1,500 times per minute; McHugh’s spins 2,000 times. The more spin, the more the ball moves during the pitch, and the more likely batters are to miss it. Houston snapped him up.
“We identified him as someone whose surface statistics might not indicate his true value.”
Sportswriter Joe Vasile from SB Nation noted, “McHugh uses his slider an astounding 44.6 percent of his pitches, and his curve 22.5 percent of the time. His fastball checks in at only 27.2 percent of his pitches. This pitch selection makes McHugh one of the most unique pitchers in baseball.” (May 2015)
In 2015, Collin had the second-lowest Exit Velocity (MPH) in MLB—only 86.21 mph, as tracked by StatCast-Amazon. (Jorge De La Rosa of the Rockies had EV/MPH of 86.06 for #1.)
As of the start of the 2020 season, McHugh had a 58-43 career record, a 3.95 ERA having allowed 93 home runs and 771 hits in 800 innings.
July 7, 2014: McHugh was on the D.L. with a right middle finger nail avulsion.
March 30, 2017: McHugh will start the year on the 10-day disabled list while he continues to build arm strength he lost while dealing with fatigue issues this spring.
April 8-July 22, 2017: McHugh, the Astros' projected No. 3 starter, will continue on the DL, and will not throw for six weeks due to a posterior impingement of his right elbow. McHugh will not undergo surgery at this time, but he will be reevaluated after the six-week period.
March 3, 2019: Astros right-handed starter Collin McHugh will skip his next scheduled start Monday and will instead pitch Saturday against the Cardinals. McHugh experienced a sore back during his first Grapefruit League start and is being moved back as a precaution.
“We could push him and probably pitch him in the next day or two, but we’re going to completely skip him, so he could get a very aggressive bullpen midweek, probably after the off day.” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “We feel like if we give him enough time now this won’t linger. We’ll give it even more days than he probably needs.”
May 21-June 24, 2019: McHugh went on the IL with elbow discomfort.
Aug 31-Sept 30, 2019: Collin was placed on the IL with right elbow discomfort, the same issue he battled earlier in the season.
“It’s been bothering me for the last little while, and I was able to pitch through it,” McHugh said. “It’s August. Every year, it’s tough for all the pitchers. Everybody’s going to get little nicks and knacks. … It’s frustrating, but at the same time, we’ve got a lot of road ahead of us and I want to be a part of it.”