A couple spring trainings ago Danny Duffy was sitting in the Royals clubhouse holding the biggest can of energy drink Id ever seen. Pitching coach Dave Eiland walked by, pointed at the can and told Duffy that might be part of the problemDanny started laughing. Danny Duffy is known for being over-amped on the mound. Hes got great stuff; but can he control it?
By LEE JUDGE
The Kansas City Star
Wednesday night he controlled it.
After his last big-league start Danny called himself a "dumpster fire" and said he was overthrowing and having a hard time controlling his curveballhe couldnt find the right release point. Wednesday night against the Twins Duffy threw 103 pitches and 73 of them were strikes. He was controlling his fastball and changeup and when he threw a curve, got it in the zone about half the time; enough to make it a credible threat and force hitters to take it into consideration. Duffy also threw a few sliders and/or cutters (MLB.com couldnt seem to decide which) and much of the time those were also strikes.
When a pitcher gets ahead in the countand thats where Duffy was most of the nighthe has options; he can throw all his pitches and hitters have to try to hit them. Get ahead in the count and you can pitch out of the zone and hitters will chase.
Wednesday night Danny Duffy threw six and two-thirds innings, walked none and didnt give up a runearned or otherwise. Danny Duffy was under control and it showed.
Royals 8, Twins 1.
• According to MLB.com, Salvador Perez hit both his homers off sliders. I wouldnt take their pitch identification to the bankone pitch was 80 miles an hour, the other 88but the point remains the same: when a pitcher hangs off-speed (and 88 barely qualifies) he speeds the hitters bat up. That means the hitter is going to make contact out in front of the plate and that means the hitter will put the ball in play in the short part of the parkone of the corners.
Some pitchers specialize in using the large part of a ballpark: let the hitter whack it as hard as he wants, but make sure the ball is in the air and in centerfield. If youre in a big park and your centerfielder can go get it, thatll work.
• I believe it was Jim Palmer who said more balls had been hit farther on sliders than any other pitch. Heres his reasoning: a hung curveball is at least a change of speed, a bad slider is just a batting practice fastballnot much movement and slowed down enough to be very hittable.
Luke Hochevar agrees with the bad-slider-being-very-hittable theory, but threw in some information of his own: hitters want to create lift on the ball by giving it rising backspin. From the hitters point of view the ball should be rotating from 12 to six oclocklike a golf ball hit off a tee. Overhand curveballs already have that spinthe pitcher pulls his fingers down the front side of the ball to create itso the hitter already has a ball with the right rotation on it. Hit a hung curve and it will fly.
• In the fourth inning Twins third baseman Trevor Plouffe made a throwing error on a Billy Butler grounder. Salvador Perez followed with a two-run home run and the error hurt the Twins on the scoreboard. When Plouffes throw to first base hit the ground, Billy Butler was still three strides away from first base.
Infielders have to know whos running and play accordingly; a guy rushing a throw with Jarrod Dyson coming down the line is acceptable and everyone knows why the infielder rushed. Rushing a throw with Billy Butler running makes less sense.
• In the first inning with Justin Morneau on first base, Alex Gordon made a diving catch of a sinking line drive. There were two outs so Morneau was running on contact. The ball was between Gordon and the foul lineif Alex doesnt catch that ball, it goes down into the left field corner and maybe Morneau scores from first. That would have also put Josh Willinghamthe guy who lined out to Gordonin scoring position. Danny gave up a lead-off single to start the second inning, so play out the "what if?" game and Dannys down by two before the first inning is over. If that happened, theres no telling what effect it would have on the already over-amped Danny DuffyGordons catch was a big play early in the game.
• Once you get to know players and coaches theyll express opinions off the record, not all of them flatteringbut you never hear a bad word about Alex Gordon. Young guys look up to him as a role model; old-school guys think Gordon goes about his business in the right way. They think young guys should look up to him. Ive heard of coaches telling young players to watch Alex and do whatever he does; thats a good way to stick in the big leagues.
• Brian Dozier is in his second season of big league baseball. Heres why that matters: Dozier had four at-bats on Wednesday night and in each one of them a Royals pitcher would get ahead in the count and then go oof-speed. Dozier put three balls in play off Danny Duffyall were changeups. Dozier put one ball in play off Luke Hochevarit was a curve. Dozier hit a fly ball to the outfield every time he came to the plate.
So the Royals clearly had a way they wanted to pitch Dozier and got away with doing it every time he came to the plate. With some young guys you can keep getting them out the same way, with some veterans you better switch things upa guy whos been around a while will sit soft and whack one of those off-speed pitches. This is part of what they mean when they say baseball is a game of adjustments; if pitchers are getting you out with the same pitch pattern over and over, you better adjust.
• Relief pitcher Casey Fien gave up three runs, reliever Anthony Swarzak gave up two. People will talk in mystic tones about an offense coming alive when it may be as simple as the other team changing pitchers; this guy was shutting you down, this guy got whacked. Whenever theres a pitching change, theres a chance for the game to change.
• Aaron Crow pitched the ninth and gave up a home run and a walk. Neither one was good: the home run came on an 0-2 pitch to Justin Morneauwhy give him something that hittable 0-2?and the walk came with a seven-run lead.
Waking someone up
The Minnesota Twins are 57-74; theyre not going anywhere in the post-season except home. When players know their team has no chance, they often start to play out the stringyou still want to put up your numbers, but youre just going through the motions.
Unless someone wakes you up.
In the sixth inning Salvador Perez came to the plate and Andrew Albers threw a pitch up and inkind of. The pitch was more up than in, but Perez still spun out of the way, hit the deck and came up talking to Albers. Perez obviously thought the pitch was intentional; Sal had already doubled and homered, there were two outs in the inning and it was the first pitch of the at-bat. Thats a great time to drill a hitter if thats what you want to do.
Perez got up and gestured to his side and then his head. The message was this: if you want to hit me, hit me in the sidenot in the head. Later, Albers said he wasnt trying to do either onehe was just pitching inside and that one got away. Of course, thats what pitchers always say, even when they are trying to hit a batterbut if a pitchers going to drill a guy, theres an accepted way to do it. Throw a fastball below the shouldersstay away from the headand behind the hitters back. That way the hitter will back up into the pitch and get plunked in the ribs. It hurts, but no one is going on the DL.
That what Perez was referring toif you want to hit me do it the right way.
But theres not a lot of evidence Albers wanted to hit him. An inning later, Albers came up and in on Alex Gordon and Gordon didnt make a big deal of it. And there are old-school players that will tell you that if a hitter even thinks a pitcher is throwing at his head, he better go to the mound and deliver the message in person; you come up around my head and Ill come out here and kick your butt. The old-school guys think all the bat pointing and talking just covers the fact that the hitter really doesnt want to go to the mound.
The way Salvador Perez handled the situation may have woken the Twins up; they were going through the motions and now they have a reason to get refocused. It could also be argued that Albers woke Perez upafter getting up off the ground, Sal hit a line drive back through box and then homered in his next at-bat. Ballplayers reach this point in the year and theyre running out of energythis kind of thing can kick-start an entire team. This issue may be over or we may see something else happen in todays game.
When you see something like this happen, pay attention to what happens next; its usually pretty interestingand that can wake fans up.