Games » Oakland AthleticsJun14
What Danny Duffy still has to learn
Danny Duffy won his first game; good for him, he deserved it. Two earned runs in six innings ain’t easy, but it also doesn’t have to be this hard. Duffy is a regular-sized guy, but clearly he’s been blessed with one of those magic arms. The only way I could throw 76 mph off a mound is if you let me get a running start from second. Duffy throws 96 mph like it’s nothing.
So Danny’s got the stuff, now it’s about learning to pitch. He struggles to control the running game, sometimes taking 1.8 seconds to deliver the ball. That’s about half a second longer than is desirable. The Royals have him working on a slide step, but if you’re spending less time with your foot in the air, you also have less time to get your arm in the right position. That rush can make the ball go high and you sometimes see that with Danny.
A pitcher intent on slowing the running game also has some mental tricks to master. You’re not supposed to deliver the ball home with 20 percent of your mind on the runner or throw the ball to a base with 20 percent of your mind on the batter. Bad things happen.
It’s not easy learning to deal with the runner by varying the time you hold the ball in the set position and then shifting all your focus toward home. It’s even tougher for a left-hander who “reads.” That’s a guy, like Bruce Chen, who lifts his foot and then decides whether he’s going to first or home. (Of course, Bruce is also deciding what arm angle to use, how much to add or subtract from the pitch and what joke he’ll tell in the clubhouse the next day, so Danny’s got a ways to go.)
Fifteen pitches per inning is about average and Duffy threw an average of 17.3 last night. Doesn’t sound like much, but knock off the four walks (which took 22 pitches to deliver) and you probably give the Royals another inning.
Clearly, Danny Duffy has the stuff you can’t teach: an arm that delivers the ball at 96. Now he’s got to learn the stuff you can teach: how to use it.
The running game is always there
Since we’re on the subject of stopping base stealers: If the Royals don’t steal a base, it’s not because they’ve changed their minds about the running game. They’ve simply run into a team that cares about stopping them. Doug Sisson said they might run into three teams in a row that put the work in necessary to stop the Royals from stealing bases.
That doesn’t mean the running game has gone away. You will still see the effects of the Royals’ base-running approach in distracted pitchers and an increased number of fastballs delivered to the plate. When the math says they can steal, they’ll be right back at it.
And the math said “steal” four times last night and three times the math was right.
I joked that Mike Moustakas ought to buy Eric Hosmer a steak after Eric saved Moustakas from a couple of errors in Mike’s first game. Maybe the steak dinner ought to become a weekly tradition. Moustakas has made a number of high throws over to first and Hosmer’s defense has saved him. With another first baseman over there, we’d be having a “Can Mike Moustakas play defense at the big-league level?” discussion.
Mike threw another one off target (to be fair, he started the play by slipping to the ground) and it tailed into the runner. Hosmer went in after it and saved an arm injury by spinning counter clockwise when the runner hit his mitt. If the first baseman doesn’t give in one of these collisions, his arm can get bent back and injured.
Make it a filet mignon.
P.S. Eric also tried one of the more veteran moves in the first baseman’s bag of tricks: He came off the bag just a hair early and caught the ball all in one motion in order to get the call on a late throw. Didn’t work, but nice to know Hosmer learned that one along the way. And some day he’ll get that call.
If you want to know how to throw from the outfield you can’t do any better than studying what Jeff Francoeur did in the second inning. With a runner on third and a line drive on the way, Frenchy got behind the spot where the ball would land on caught the ball running forward. This adds momentum to the throw and Jeff got the runner at the plate.
Six innings later, the A’s right fielder, Conor Jackson, took a much more casual approach to the ball and it cost his team a run. Alcides Esobar spotted Jackson drifting to the ball, recognized he wouldn’t be in a position to make a good throw and went back and tagged first, advancing to second on the catch.
That meant when Melky Cabrera hit what would’ve been a double play grounder to short, Esky was on his way to third (his mental mistake, the ball’s got to be to your left to advance). The umpire, Mike Estabrook (funny how his name keeps coming up) made a bad call and everybody was safe.
Treanor drops one and makes one
Matt Treanor uncharacteristically dropped a pop fly at the backstop, which reminded me of one of my favorite baseball stories:
Pitcher Jim Katt had two outs and runner on third in the ninth inning, when the batter hit a pop fly to the rookie playing third base. Catch the ball and the game’s over. Of course the rookie dropped it or there wouldn’t be a story. Katt approached the rookie and said, “That’s all right, kid, someday you’ll win me one.” The kid then gets the game-winning hit in extra innings. (I’ve got no idea if this story is actually true, but it ought to be.)
Burying someone for making a mistake (listen up, all you parents out there) is counterproductive. Everyone is going to make a mistake. If Katt had reamed the kid, how would that have affected the rookie’s chances in that final at-bat?
Everybody screws up and everybody makes good plays. Treanor may have dropped one, but then caught a much harder pop fly, made a great tag on Francoeur’s throw to the plate and blocked a pitch in the dirt with a runner on third.
If someone keeps making mistakes, yelling at them is not the answer … you just send them to Omaha.