The optimism is looking a little less enthusiastic right about now. Soria’s out for the year. Salvador Perez is out for half the year. The starting rotation has looked pretty bad in spring training, even everyone’s golden boy Felipe Paulino—wanted to see him shine, felt like he might not, hate being right.
The shine has come off the apple a touch, and the Royals are starting to look a lot like the same team that finished last season—pretty good offense, terrible pitching. Even fan-favorite and potential-filled Danny Duffy was roughed up in his last spring start, no doubt brining on worries that all the talks of mechanical tweaks improving his command were just talk.
But I’ve decided to help boost morale a little. Why? Because I was a little stunned by Duffy. I wasn’t sure how a guy could look as good as he does and still put up bad numbers. I know Luke Hochevar has that problem, but his brain is as fragile as Rush Limbaugh’s grip on reality. Duffy though seems mentally tough. So, I re-watched his last start and saw some things that make me think that Duffy should be ok. I focused on his terrible second inning in which he gave up four runs. Here they are:
- Against the first hitter of the second inning, Duffy dominated. He threw a great 0-1 changeup for a swing-and-miss strike and went right after the hitter 0-2 to get a pop-out in foul territory. Easy and efficient.
- Alex Gordon lost a ball in the sun and essentially gave the Angels an out. It happens in baseball, but it doesn’t make it any easier to hold offenses down. That hitter, Bobby Abreu, eventually doubled to left field on a 3-2 fastball on the outside edge.
- With runners at second and third with one out, Duffy struck out Alberto Callaspo on three pitches. He started four of the first five hitters of the inning out in 0-2 counts. (if Gordon hadn’t lost the ball in the sun this inning would be over)
- Fifth batter of the inning hits a weak looking fly ball to left-center. I was shocked that Gordon didn’t get to it. He reached for it—without diving for some reason—and barely missed it. Two runs came in to score. From there, it falls apart.
If you’re not catching the theme so far, it’s that Duffy had some bad breaks in his last outing. That game could have looked very different if one or two things go his way. I know it’s a pitcher’s job to limit damage when things don’t go his way, but at the same time, a pitcher is going to have a tough luck outing from time to time. Duffy wasn’t wildly inaccurate. He didn’t walk a ton of hitters. He didn’t get hit really hard. He just had some tough breaks.
Actually, I’d say it was a pretty encouraging start. He pitched ahead of many hitters. He used an effective changeup from time to time. He didn’t nibble the way he did last season. It looked like he isn’t afraid of contact so much now. These are the things we want to see from Duffy.
I think he’s headed in the right direction and still expect him to have a much-improved season. Does it mean the Royals rotation problems are solved? No. Paulino hasn’t looked great. Bruce Chen has looked abysmal. Luis Mendoza has looked good, but who knows with him really. But I think Duffy still looks terrific despite some ugly looking numbers. When the season hits, don’t be surprised if he’s looking like the Royals best starting pitcher at times.
Or follow me on Twitter @MarcusMeade