March 22, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (23) throws against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE

Duffy Looks Good ... I Mean It

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.

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Tags: AL Central Alberto Callaspo Alex Gordon Baseball Bruce Chen Danny Duffy Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals KC KC Royals Luke Hochevar MLB Pitching Salvador Perez

  • jim fetterolf

    Marc, this a breath of fresh air in a blogosphere awash in Getz-angst.
    Agree with you on Duffy, I think he’s going to have a really good year and consider him a lock for the rotation with Chen and Paulino battling for the last spot.

  • somedevil04

     @jim fetterolf
     Great article. I do worry about Duffy’s ability to put hitters away but I agree that his last start was tough luck.  I think Chen has a spot if he isn’t injured even if he doesn’t deserve it.  I still think the best way to go is make Mendoza the long man and if someone is ineffective you just insert Mendoza into the rotation.

  • davidwlowe

     @somedevil04 Has Mendoza done something wrong last year or this year to not make the rotation?  PCL pitcher of the year?  Nope. Two shutdown starts in September 2011?  Nope.  Arguably the best pitcher in the Cactus League?  Nope.  Looks like a solid pitcher to me, who scouts and coaches say has “figured it out.”  I’m going to take their word for it and give him a chance.

  • davidwlowe

    Good article, except I don’t see the Royals with “terrible pitching” this spring, as you put it, to match what they had last year.
    I say the pitching is improved, assuming Chen gets his act together. If he doesn’t, then Paulino may replace him. I don’t think Yost and Moore want to run Chen out there if he continues to give up 9+ runs per 9 innings.
    Our bullpen has been excellent.  Compared to last year, I am feeling much better about our starting rotation:
    1.  Sanchez
    2.  Hochevar
    3.  Duffy
    4.  Mendoza
    5.  Chen/Paulino

  • mmeade17

     @davidwlowe Fair point. Terrible may be an overstatement. I wrote this after listening to the game yesterday, in which Paulino got rocked again, so maybe my despair was running high. Hochevar has had a great spring. Mendoza’s been incredible. Sanchez has been decent so far. Chen and Paulino have been pretty bad, but compared to last year, it’s an improvement. This spring has looked bad, but it’s tough to pitch in spring training. That said, I’ve been waiting for a Chen and Paulino fall so hopefully I’m waiting for a long, long time.

  • jim fetterolf

     @davidwlowe With a coin flip between Paulino and Chen I  probably put Chen in the ‘pen, having been a good long-reliever in the past, and Paulino in the rotation on a short leash. I think Duffy and Mendoza are locks.

  • mmeade17

     @somedevil04 This is going to sound crazy because I wrote an article that explicitly stated that Mendoza should be the long man, but I don’t see how Mendoza doesn’t get a shot at the rotation. I understand why you’re thinking Mendoza in the bullpen because Paulino is terrible out of the pen. So by putting Mendoza in the pen and Paulino in the rotation you give both better chances to be successful. But Mendoza has pitched so well he deserves that rotation spot if he continues to pitch well this spring. It’s a very, very tough call, but I’m moving into the drivers seat on the Mendoza bandwagon and saying PUT HIM IN THE ROTATION!

  • JimMeinsen

    I was enjoying the article till you had to take to gratuitous slam on Rush.  Stick with baseball and leave the stupidity out of it. 

  • mmeade17

     @JimMeinsen I’m glad you enjoyed even some of it :)