After Danny Duffy landed the fifth spot in the rotation, I congratulated him and told him it would be nice to have him around. He said it would be nice to be around. I asked what he was going to be working on this season and he said, “Pitch efficiency. If I could get a first-pitch out every time, I’d give up all my strikeouts.”
Danny said he sometimes rushes his delivery, the arm is late and the ball goes high. If the ball stays in the zone, it gets whacked, and if it’s up out of the zone, the batter doesn’t swing. And that drives Duffy’s pitch count up. As I wrote earlier, Duffy has incorporated a “toe tap” (lifting his front foot up, bringing it straight back down, tapping his toe and then going forward toward the plate) to slow down his delivery. Pitching coach Dave Eiland walked by and, without even knowing what we’d been talking about, pointed at Danny’s right hand — which held the largest can of Red Bull I’d ever seen — and said, “That’s part of the problem.”
When you watch Duffy pitch this season, pay attention to the ball’s elevation and how many pitches he’s using to get outs, and you’ll have a good idea of whether that toe tap is working.
And while we’re on the subject
Ned Yost said he likes to alternate looks in his pitching rotation, but it’s not just lefty, righty, lefty, righty. Everett Teaford followed by Bruce Chen is a bit of a problem: two similar, soft-throwing lefties. Duffy followed by Chen is not a problem. They had Duffy clocked at 98 Tuesday night — a big change from Chen. Yost also said he could imagine a rotation with four or even five left-handers — as long as they presented different looks to hitters.
When making a turn at a base, the Royals ask their runners to hit the inside corner of the base with either foot, dip their shoulder toward the mound — it allows a tighter turn, and they want the turns as tight as possible — and use the base to push off to the next base.
I watched this drill yesterday and noticed Doug Sisson standing on top of the base. This morning I asked if Sisson was standing there to force the runners to hit the inside corner of the base. He said yes — he was covering everything but the inside corner of the base, which forced the runners to make the tag correctly.
I’d say Sisson needs to improve the Royals’ baserunning, but he’s already on top of it.
Speaking of baserunning
Remember how I said it’s important for a team to develop a reputation? Well, the Royals’ reputation for aggressive baserunning resulted in a monster Billy Butler home run Wednesday night. The Rangers’ pitcher, Derek Holland, was worried about Eric Hosmer stealing second, even though Hosmer had almost no lead. Holland kept attempting to pick off Hosmer. When Holland finally delivered the ball to the plate, it was a fastball down the middle, which Butler hit out of the park…the entire park. We didn’t have instant replay in the press box, so we’re still arguing over how far the ball flew, but it was a nice example of the way baserunning can pay off in unexpected ways.
Obviously, the stats put up in spring training are of great interest. Fans are excited about their teams and study the numbers from Florida and Arizona. That’s why I’ve been writing about them almost every day; people with the team are explaining them to me, and I’m passing along that information. And, as usual, context is everything.
How come Chen’s numbers don’t matter, but Johnny Giavotella’s do? (If you’ve read all the posts, you already know.)
But, as happens every day around here, someone said something that adds further insight to the subject: Players aren’t being evaluated just in games. There’s a lot of work being done in BP and drills that also matters. Evaluation is taking place every day, all day — not just in the ballgames. All that the fans back home have are the numbers, so they lose context, but what happens on a back field with four people watching also matters.
How cool is this?
Kevin Seitzer and I were telling Mitch Maier how we played against each other in a men’s amateur league. (Seitzer was just slightly better.) Seitzer said he was also playing on a softball team at the time, and that reminded him of a story: While he was still playing professionally, Seitzer was in Detroit and played a day game against the Tigers. The team was staying over in Detroit that night and a buddy who lived there convinced Seitzer to come to a softball game that evening.
Sure enough, his buddy’s softball team came up a man short. After playing against the Detroit Tigers that day, Seitzer, wearing a polo shirt and jeans, played in a local softball game that night. I asked how many rules he’d broken by playing, and Seitzer said, “What was I going to do? They were a man short.”
Now, that’s a ballplayer.
Lee Judge, Travel Agent
Longtime baseball writer Tracy Ringolsby stopped by last week and, while we were talking, said that he likes covering spring training in Arizona better than Florida. I asked why, and he said every team is 45 minutes away in Arizona. In Florida, they’re all over the place — good point. So if you’re planning a trip to spring training and want to see a lot of different teams, not just your favorite, now you know where to go.
But if you’re coming to Arizona, be aware of the weather. It looks terrific, but you can be freezing in the morning and broiling by lunch. If the wind is blowing, you can shiver in the shade, take one step out into the sun and feel like you’re in a microwave. The sun feels like it’s about six inches above your head. Eighty-one degrees here feels like 101 in Kansas City. Jeff Francoeur walked into the clubhouse this morning red as a lobster — he had a day off and fell asleep by the pool. Everybody’s trying to stay hydrated. Some of the players even drink Pedialyte, an electrolyte solution that sick children take that’s designed to replace fluids and minerals.
So if you’re picking a spring training trip, I’d come to Arizona, but do it in Boy Scout mode: Be prepared.