A quality start — a start in which the pitcher throws a minimum of six innings and allows a maximum of three earned runs — is a quick way to figure out if the starting pitcher gave his team a decent chance to win. The Kansas City Royals have 12 quality starts; only three teams in the big leagues have fewer.
In some cases the starting pitcher allowed three runs or less, but did not pitch the required six innings. When you have a bullpen as good as Kansas City’s, it’s not surprising that a manager would go to that bullpen early; but keep going to that bullpen early and you’re going to have a worn out pen.
Monday night starting pitcher Danny Duffy threw 3 2/3 innings and once again Ned Yost went to a reliever early. Duffy was all over the place, at one point spiking a fastball in the dirt. Fastballs in the dirt are an especially bad sign; a pitcher should be able to control his fastball if he’s going to have any success at all.
And Duffy’s off-speed stuff was even worse.
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In the bottom of the second inning Duffy walked the bases loaded and then ran the count full on Delino DeShields. At that point in the game Duffy had thrown 41 pitches: 33 fastballs and eight off-speed pitches. Of the eight off-speed pitches, only one was a strike. So with Duffy in danger of walking in a run and little command of his off-speed stuff, if you were Delino DeShields, what pitch would you look for?
If you said fastball, give yourself a line drive double — that’s what DeShields looked for and that’s what DeShields hit.
Tuesday night Edinson Volquez goes to the mound and he’s taking his torn-up thumb with him. After his last start Volquez developed a blister and after the game the spot on his thumb looked sore and raw. The Royals say the trainers have worked wonders on his thumb and Volquez is ready to go; Royals fans should be hoping Edinson is ready to stay — for at least six innings with three earned runs or less.
The Royals bullpen is supplying plenty of quality finishes; right now the Royals need some quality starts.
The Texas Rangers: Who’s going good right now?
Look at a box score after Monday night’s game and here’s what the Texas Rangers that played in that game are hitting at this point in the season:
Shin-Soo Choo: .194
Elvis Andrus: .223
Prince Fielder: .336
Adrian Beltre: .244
Kyle Blanks: .277
Robinson Chirinos: .177
Leonys Martin: .209
Thomas Field: .333
Delino DeShields: .206
But if you want to know who’s swinging the bat well right now, look at the last seven games:
Shin-Soo Choo: .300
Elvis Andrus: .207
Prince Fielder: .275
Adrian Beltre: 333
Kyle Blanks: .250
Robinson Chirinos: .210
Leonys Martin: .115
Thomas Field: .333
Delino DeShields: .263
Assuming I counted right — always a risky proposition — there are guys who jump out at you for hitting better than their season average would suggest and guys who jump out at you for hitting worse. (Thomas Field has only played in one game, so that average doesn’t tell you much.)
Averages are just that: averages. But pitchers and managers want to know where a guy is right now tonight: Is a guy with a bad overall average hot? Is a guy with a good overall average cold?
You can’t just look at a scoreboard and know.
People forget they’re human
You can’t hang around ballplayers too long before you hear one of them say: “People forget we’re human.”
I used to think that meant they make mistakes, and it does; but it also means more than that. It means they have wives and families, get sick, feel good or bad, start and end relationships; in short, ballplayers deal with all the stuff the rest of us do and have a few other issues besides.
One of those is flying through the night to get to the next game and arriving at their hotel at 5:45 a.m. After the rain delay in Detroit, that’s what time the Royals finally got to where they were staying in Texas.
Show a veteran player or coach a schedule, figure out when they fly and what nights off they’ll have and where they’ll have them and that coach or player might point to a game and say: “We won’t be worth a damn that day.”
And most of the time they’ll be right.