Judging the Royals

Danny Duffy lacked ‘presence’ and the Royals get beat again

Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy delivered a pitch in the second inning of Wednesday’s baseball game against the Cleveland Indians.
Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy delivered a pitch in the second inning of Wednesday’s baseball game against the Cleveland Indians. The Associated Press

Wednesday night Danny Duffy pitched against the Cleveland Indians and only lasted 2  1/3 innings. Danny gave up six hits, two walks and four runs while on the mound, but his postgame performance might have been even worse.

Let me stop here and say Danny Duffy is one of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. On the other hand — despite rumors to the contrary — I’m a nice guy, but I’m pretty sure the Royals don’t want me pitching in the postseason.

But back to Danny Duffy and his postgame performance:

Danny was interviewed in the visiting clubhouse after the game and he said he never established any kind of presence on the mound. For lack of a better description “presence” is a confident, aggressive, I-don’t-care-if-I-don’t-have-my-best-stuff-I’m-still-better- than-you attitude.

Think Wade Davis.

Greg Holland — despite his drop in fastball velocity — also has presence. That’s why the Royals are sticking with him as their closer, at least for now. It’s what Ned Yost means when he says Holland has the heart of a lion and a closer’s mentality. Apparently, when Ned and a trainer made that mound visit because Holly was throwing fastballs in the upper-80s, Greg wanted to know what the heck they were doing out there; even if he was throwing less than his best fastball, he still had the situation under control.

That’s mound presence.

Other issues; like command

After talking about his lack of presence, Danny went on to say some contradictory things about his performance. For instance: Danny said he had good stuff, but he wasn’t locating it. I’m not a pitcher or a pitching coach, but I’d think having good stuff would also include location. You might have a great curve, but if you don’t know where it’s going I’m not sure that qualifies as good stuff.

In his postgame interview, Ned Yost said if a pitcher can’t repeat his mechanics, he can’t throw strikes. And to put an even finer point on it, a pitcher who is mechanically inconsistent can’t throw quality strikes; it’s one thing to get the ball in the strike zone, quite another to put the ball in a good spot within the strike zone.

Watch the Royals outfield play defense behind Duffy and you see them spend most of their time playing straight up. If Duffy isn’t hitting his spots the outfield can’t shift and overload any part of the field; there’s no guarantee the ball will be hit in that direction.

Lack of in-game adjustments

OK, so Danny lacked presence and didn’t know exactly where the ball was going. Pitchers will tell you they don’t always have their best stuff when they go out to the mound; so most nights pitchers have to adjust on the fly.

Tuesday night Kris Medlen did not have a good feel for his off-speed stuff, but still pitched 6  1/3 innings of shutout baseball by grinding it out and keeping the ball down in the zone.

I once asked Wade Davis what he would do when his front shoulder was flying open; that mechanical flaw makes pitches miss the target on the pitcher’s arm side. Wade came up with a simple solution: “Aim left.”

In Danny’s postgame news conference he said he was having a hard time getting the ball down in the zone, then said maybe it had something to do with the mound. Danny didn’t sound sure about what he had to do to fix things. I’m not positive it would have worked, but maybe Danny needed to take a page out of Wade’s book and just aim lower.

Inconsistency

Assuming the Royals’ bullpen is healthy — a big assumption these days — and Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland are available, a starting pitcher needs to go six innings with a lead; that gets the ball to the backend of the Kansas City pen and the Royals odds of winning a baseball game go way up.

Danny Duffy has had 24 starts; in 13 of those starts he’s failed to go six innings, in five of those starts he didn’t make it through the fifth. But Danny has also pitched brilliantly at times; in seven of his 24 starts he’s pitched six innings or more and given up less than three earned runs.

Danny Duffy is a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.

Handling pressure

Ned Yost was asked if the pressure of trying to make the postseason rotation had anything to do with Danny’s performance, but if a guy can’t handle the pressure of trying to make the postseason rotation, how will he handle the pressure of the postseason?

Danny’s postgame comments did not inspire confidence; he seemed a bit dazed and confused by his performance and talked about learning from the experience and doing better in the future.

But the Royals are running out of time: they’re playing their worst baseball of 2015 and have 17 regular-season games to get things back on track. And Danny Duffy has even fewer opportunities to fix things.

Pitchers need to pitch with conviction and confidence; they need to believe they’re better than the guy at the plate and they need to believe that the next pitch they throw is going to be a great one. In that postgame interview Danny Duffy sounded anything but convicted and confident.

And that might be enough to keep Danny Duffy out of the postseason rotation.

To reach Lee Judge, call 816-234-4482 or send email to ljudge@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @leejudge8.

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