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Duffy Needs To Work Faster

I have a feeling that at some point in the next couple of years, Danny Duffy will be my least favorite pitcher on the Royals’ staff. I don’t say that because I think he will struggle. I actually think he’s going to be very good and his 2011 debut will be quite beneficial to the 2013 Royals. I say that because he works way too slow. I remember when the Royals signed Gil Meche and there were warnings from Mariners fans that Meche works so slow and that it’s just painful to watch sometimes. I thought to myself at the time that a slow worker isn’t that big of a deal. Boy was I wrong about that. Now, the Royals have one of their top prospects in the big leagues and he works at a pace that can’t be good for his game or for the defense behind him.

If you’re reading this blog, you probably understand the value of a quick worker, but just in case I have some readers who don’t know, I’ll explain. Multiple reasons exist for wanting a pitcher to work quickly. I’m not exactly sure the order of importance or if there is an order of importance, but the two big ones are that the defense behind the pitcher is more on their toes and ready to go and working quicker allows you to repeat mechanics easier and better and allows the pitcher to throw more strikes. The first is a pretty hard and fast rule. Defenders don’t like pitchers who work slowly because they’re doing a lot of standing around. The second isn’t quite as true all the time because some pitchers are just that good that their pace doesn’t alter their command. For Duffy, though, I think his pace is a big part of why his command is off at times.

Also, to go along with Duffy’s slow pace on the mound, he seems to get preoccupied with base runners. Now, he apparently has some deception because he was able to pick off two runners last night. Well, they weren’t counted as pick-offs because they got thrown out at second, but you get the idea. Still, though, he needs to focus on the batter as he can’t count on catching two runners leaning every game. He’ll get more outs by focusing on retiring the hitters and not having his attention divided. This isn’t to say that I’m upset with the way Duffy is pitching or anything of the sort. He’s had a couple of rough outings in a row, but I still think his future is bright. And I should add the obvious here – I’m no pitching coach. I don’t pretend to know enough to diagnose anybody’s problems, but as a fan Duffy’s troubles do seem somewhat fixable with a couple of simple mindset adjustments.

Of course, the added benefits to Duffy having better command include his ability to get deeper into games which saves the bullpen, and well you know the rest. The Royals bullpen is so overworked this season because of both the lack of deep starting pitching and the extra inning games the Royals have played throughout the season. It’s the overworked bullpen that has led to two of their pitchers giving up ten earned runs or more in a game this season. I get asked a lot by friends and family why when a pitcher is struggling in the early going the Royals don’t get someone up in the bullpen. We’re unfortunately at the point in the season now where the Royals are stuck playing a lot of games with very few off days. They simply cannot tax their bullpen by forcing them to throw six or seven innings in a game every time a pitcher struggles in the early going. There are times, like last night, where they’ve got to bite the bullet and go to the pen, but I think if it was Hochevar or Francis out there, Yost would have let them finish the fifth at least. With Duffy, you want to do everything you can to keep him mentally healthy as well as physically.

I will say that last night included some curious decisions from Ned Yost that I don’t think put the bullpen in the best position to succeed. Nate Adcock came on in the fifth inning and looked outstanding. Then in the sixth, he recorded two outs quickly before giving up a quick walk and a base hit which led to Jose Bautista at the plate with runners on second and third. Yost weighed his options and decided to intentionally walk Bautista to get to Adam Lind, the Blue Jays slugging designated hitter. I noted at the time that it seemed like a bad matchup for Adcock, and sure enough Lind launched a grand slam just to the right of center and the Blue Jays lead went from 5-4 to 9-4. Of the nine runs the Blue Jays scored, three of them were scored by players who had walked to get on base. I don’t have to give you this example to expound the virtues of not walking hitters, but it’s just another lesson. Anyway, I just didn’t like the decision to load the bases and give Adcock an even worse matchup than the one he had. I do understand that Bautista is probably the best hitter in baseball right now, but if he beats you there, he beats you because Lind also has some serious power. Plus, he crushes righties to the tune of a career slugging percentage against them over .500 while Adcock gives up a slugging percentage over .500 to lefties. It’s just a bad matchup.

The final curious decision was in the ninth inning when Yost continued to refuse to pinch hit for Alcides Escobar in a game situation. As you know, Escobar struck out looking and did nothing to help the offense. I’ll preface this by saying that I like Escobar a lot and I think he will hit at some point in his career, maybe even soon. Right now, though, he’s a terrible hitter. He is potentially the worst hitting non-pitcher in baseball. So when your team is down by two and the tying run steps to the plate in the name of Alcides Escobar, it’s time to pinch hit. Yost got a little upset in the post-game press conference when he was asked about this and used J.J. Hardy as an example of a player who struggled and then all of a sudden figured it out. I’ll say this – I don’t think they’re even close to the same player. Anyway, Gordon was able to score Pena on a double before Melky Cabrera popped out to end the game. A pinch hitter may have done no better than Escobar, but you just have to wonder because there are very few players who are less likely than Escobar to get a hit.

I realized during the game last night that we’ve reached the point in the season where I no longer know what the Royals record is at the drop of a hat (I looked, it’s 26-36). I’m back to being more focused on the future, which is probably better for my mental health since the current is pretty ugly. I still maintain that if the Royals added Moustakas, Giavotella, Cain and Lough to the everyday lineup that they’d be a better team. I get why they haven’t done that yet, but it’s tough to sit and watch those four perform so well in AAA while the players blocking them in the Majors aren’t exactly tearing things up. Even with those four, there still wouldn’t be enough pitching to compete this year. I suppose I’ll just have to be patient, which is tougher to do every year. I maintain my early season prediction that the Royals will get better as the season goes on. I didn’t quite expect them to start off as fast as they did, but those are just wins in the bank to help them avoid 100 losses. And now we’re back to the goals we’ve been used to for years.

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