Games » Detroit TigersJul7
Danny Duffy takes a step forward
The worst thing Danny Duffy did last night was to walk Miguel Cabrera, which is kind of understandable. Cabrera is an absolute beast at the plate, and Duffy was trying to be careful with him to lead off the second inning. Two batters later, Ryan Raburn went deep, with a 1-2 fastball and Cabrera’s walk was the difference in the game, until Aaron Crow gave up a home run to lead off the 9th.
Still, Duffy threw well and continues to show improvement. Don’t get freaked that he’s being sent down to Triple A. As Ned Yost explained, they’re just getting Danny a start during the All-Star break. Otherwise, Duffy would have 12 days off and the Royals want him to keep working. He seems to get a little better every time out, so this plan makes sense. Duffy will be back with the Royals for another start on the 19th.
Fastballs in fastball counts
Here’s another thing you can pay attention to: when the pitcher gets into a fastball count (2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 and 3-2) does he throw a fastball? Check the radar gun and if the pitch is in the 90s you probably just saw a heater. Pitchers who throw fastballs in fastball counts will eventually get smoked (because the hitter knows what’s coming) unless it’s a really good fastball.
It looked like Duffy was adding and subtracting (taking a few miles an hour off or putting a few on) when he got backed into a corner with his fastball. That’s another way to get away with throwing a pitch the hitter expects. The best thing is to not get in these counts and, if you do, be able to throw something other than a heater.
Speaking of fastballs
That home run Aaron Crow gave up was on a first-pitch fastball. Hitters will ambush a pitcher if they think he’s going to try to get ahead with something straight on the first pitch. After that, Crow started every hitter with something other than a fastball.
Going the other way
Eric Hosmer went through a mini-slump and has made an adjustment (good sign): he’s going the other way. He hit a double down the left field line which led to the Royals only run. Before the game he told me that was the game plan: look away and adjust in. It helps him with his mechanics and his pitch selection.
Speaking of which, Hos said that was definitely part of the adjustment to big league pitchers. We all think of increased velocity and movement when we think of better pitching, but major league pitchers are much better at deception, also.
Hitters don’t go up there intending to swing at a pitch a foot outside or down around their ankles, but the best pitchers can make that stuff look hittable as it heads to the zone. Once you start your swing, you find out that pitch isn’t going to be where you thought it would be. And neither is your average.
And here’s another problem
Ned Yost pointed out that Mike Moustakas (and Hosmer) are seeing some very good pitchers for the first time. A rookie will have some tough at-bats while finding out what these guys can do, so everybody needs to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are .300 hitters.
Some other stuff
Brayan Pena is making very sure to block the plate after the play that went bad in Texas. Catchers usually take half the plate: they put their left foot on the third base line, receive the ball in fair territory and then collapse back towards the runner to make the tag. Brayan has been coming out in front of the plate and straddling the line. That invites a collision, but Pena’s making sure he’s got the plate covered.
Outstanding defense all over the field last night; Brayan blocked the plate and stopped a run, Melky Cabrera made a great catch in center that saved a run and Alcides Escobar did the same thing. Eric Hosmer picked a low throw from Esky that saved a runner, if not a run. I don’t know how Hos gets to the park, but Esky or Moose ought to offer him a ride every day.
Jeff Francoeur turned a couple of infield dribblers into hits with hustle and it made me think: that’s one of the reasons I enjoy watching Frenchy play. The guy never dogs it. Oh, and he also did a nice job hitting the ball to the right side to move Hosmer over from second. That paid off when Mike Moustakas grounded out and Hos scored. (I said I’d explain why Francoeur can make me laugh by just standing in the outfield, so here it is: he can’t just stand in the outfield. Jeff is so antsy and high-energy, he walks around in circles between pitches. This does serve some purpose: he repositions himself with every change in the count. If the hitter is ahead, he’s more likely to pull. Behind, the hitter is going to wait and might go the other way. Frenchy is moving with the count and uses the patterns in the grass to orient himself.)
This happened a couple of times: when the pitcher holds the ball in the set position in order to freeze the runner, the hitter is the one that has to realize what the pitcher is doing and call time. Frenchy helped out a base runner a couple of times by doing this.
I asked Chris Getz how much difference there was between hitting leadoff and ninth. Chris said he tries to approach it in the same way, but admitted there might be a bit more pressure leading off. When you’re in the 9-hole you can figure anything you do on offense is a plus, after all, you’re at the bottom of the order. Batting leadoff means you’re getting one more trip to the plate and more is expected of you. Getzie said he had felt just a bit off (getting slightly under pitches) before the move to the leadoff spot and knows the spotlight is focused a bit more on his performance. Getzie would seem to be a perfect No. 2 guy (lots of bat-handling skills), but he’ll do whatever the team needs him to do.
You’ve probably already heard that Jason Kendall reinjured his shoulder. He once told me that if he reinjured it, he might be done. Jason is an incredibly competitive guy and, if it is the end of his career, he’s going to have some adjusting to do. After watching a few ball games with him, I can tell you, he’s got the mind to manage.
I’ve had several other friends hit the end of the road and how they felt at first wasn’t how they eventually ended up feeling. Guys told me they’d never coach and then ended up “putting on the watch” anyway. (Coaches wear watches, players don’t.) Ex-players often find the miss the game and their teammates so much, they’ll come back in whatever role they can find.
Jason is a really bright guy, old school as they come and has a lot to offer in any role. I don’t know if Jason Kendall needs baseball, but baseball needs Jason Kendall.
Royals catcher Matt Treanor shows how signs to the pitcher work
Kansas City Royals catcher Matt Treanor shows The Star's Lee Judge how signs to the pitcher are delivered during a game. June 27, 2011 (Video by John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star)