Something new owner John Sherman will need to improve is the Royals analytics department.
Q: Did you have any say in where you would first pitch after being drafted? I know you had made 10 starts for Idaho Falls but I am curious why they didn’t send you to Burlington or even Single-A to be perfectly honest.
A: I honestly had no idea where I was going to go. I really just wanted to get my feet wet in pro ball. My biggest priorities were to adjust to the schedule (5-6 days between starts) and to just learn as much as I could. Luckily, Jeff Suppan was the pitching coach in Idaho Falls last year, and there’s probably not a better guy to learn from in your first year than him.
17 years in the big leagues says a lot about his preparation, routines, and just the way he went about his business on a daily basis. We just kept working on my curveball together, and he reminded me to keep mixing my pitches because I got a little fastball happy at times during my first few starts.
Q: You were fantastic in general this season but in 9 starts with Single-A Lexington, you posted 2.08 ERA. What’s been the biggest transition from college ball to professional baseball for you?
A: Reiterating two things I mentioned above, adjusting to the pitching schedule and pitching inside with my fastball have been the biggest adjustments/improvements. I’ll add that it helps to have a really good curveball that I trust a lot now too. In terms of the schedule, a lot of my success this year has been based on my routines in general. I feel I really understand my body and how it’s adapted to a 5-6 day pitching schedule rather than the normal 7 days rest you get as a college starter.
Pitching inside with the fastball has just opened up everything else for me this year. The deception I have with my delivery and my changeup already allows my fastball to play up, so pitching inside helps that fact even more. And lastly, the curveball has probably been the ultimate difference-maker this year. Instead of being the 2 pitch guy I’ve always been, I now have 3 quality pitches that I’m pretty confident to throw to any hitter in any count.
Q: How big are the Royals on analytics and have you looked into anything like spin rates or pitch tendencies to help you improve?
A: I wouldn’t say the Royals are big on analytics, but they’re definitely making strides to use all the technology available to aid player development. For me personally, I love analytics. If a technology or a tool is out there and can help me and the rest of the organization get better, then why not put it to use? I understand that there is a human element to the game and your eyes can tell the story a lot of times, but it’s also beneficial to have something that’s quantified to confirm what you’re seeing on the field.
For my own repertoire, I’ve really used the Rapsodo to my benefit since I came to Wilmington back in late May. We had the Rapsodo during my junior year at Stanford, but at the time, it wasn’t really a huge emphasis because 1) I didn’t really understand what all the metrics meant and 2) I saw with my own eyes when my stuff was good or when it wasn’t as good. But this season, I’ve really wanted to get an understanding of all the technology that’s out there, and for that, I have to thank Tony Medina, our video coordinator in Wilmington.
He’s done a lot more for our club than the title would tell you, and he’s really opened my eyes when it comes to understanding how things like spin rate, spin efficiently, and spin direction all affect the quality of a certain pitch. I haven’t necessarily tried to create anything new this year, but I’ve gained a better understanding as to what my repertoire displays when things are going well and when things aren’t going well.
By looking at these metrics, I can understand why my fastball and changeup pairing is effective, or understand how I can make my curveball have more break vertically/horizontally.