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There probably isn’t a more polarizing player on the Royals roster right now than Designated Hitter Billy Butler. The once beloved Butler has seemingly fallen from grace in the eyes of the fans and even in management’s eyes. Within the last few days word has leaked out that the Seattle Mariners have discussed the availability of Butler, a player they have coveted for awhile now. Butler is enduring the worst year of his career and it appears that at the age of 28 he might have started regressing already. So with all of this out there, the question needs to be asked: should the Royals trade Billy Butler?

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That question is an interesting one, one that isn’t a straight yes or no answer. Let’s first look at the facts: Butler has provided very little offensive punch this season, as he is on pace for the lowest homerun, RBI, and OPS numbers of his career. Since Butler has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball for quite awhile the prevalent thought(mine included) has been that at some point he would turn around this season and put up numbers more representative of his career. With only 68 games remaining, the likelihood of that happening lessens everyday. His trade value has never been lower and with him carrying a team option(a hefty one at that; 12.5 million) for 2015, it’s pretty plain to see he won’t be in Royal blue next season. The smart choice would be to get something(anything) for him, but it’s not as easy as that. The Royals don’t have a ready replacement for him(Raul Ibanez?? Suuuuuure) and they are pushing for their first playoff appearance in Kansas City since 1985, so the Royals need all the fire power they can get. Since you probably wouldn’t get a better hitter for Butler, trading for his replacement would have to almost certainly be done separately. There is also this little dilemma; if you trade Billy to the Mariners, you are trading him to the team that is in front of them for the second Wild Card spot. So in effect, the Royals might very well be helping out the team they will be fighting for said playoff spot.

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So if Kansas City decides to pull the trigger on this trade with Seattle, they are probably either going to ask for a bullpen arm in return, either from the majors or minors. The Royals are probably also going to have to pay a portion of Butler’s remaining salary this year(8 million). The Royals have been searching for additional bullpen help, so this would help solve that. I wish I could say here that Billy would net more than that, but his value just isn’t that high. Mariners DH’s have hit a weak .236/.289/.356 this season, which means for them Butler would be an upgrade. I can’t foresee any other team being interested unless they wanted to use him as a part-time player or a bench guy(especially if a National League team was interested). Seattle is probably the best option for Kansas City to make a deal with at this point.

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If this happens, the Royals will then need to go out and pick up someone to be his replacement. There have been rumors that the Royals are interested in Jonny Gomes of Boston, who is a solid OF/DH type, but is better when facing southpaws(.306/.403/.429) than righties. Gomes would be a solid batter but one who’s flaws are more apparent when receiving more playing time. Cody Ross in Arizona could also be an interesting addition and he has helped teams make a push for a playoff spot in the past(San Francisco immediately coming to mind). Hell, the Royals might even add a couple bats and split them between RF and DH. There is also the option of the Royals using the DH as a rotating spot, letting their other starters play there occasionally to give them a rest on defense while keeping their bat in the lineup(see Perez, Salvador). The only problem with that is that their bench is weak to say the least and the lineup would see a decline playing Christian Colon, Brett Hayes or Danny Valencia more than they are now. Raul Ibanez? Like I said before this really isn’t an option. The man is 42 and was released by the Angels for a reason earlier this season. In the ten games since his return to Kansas City he is hitting a meek .135 with just 5 hits in 37 at bats. So if the Royals are looking to improve their offense by trading Butler, a couple other moves will probably have to happen as well.

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So what should the Royals do? In my opinion, the Royals have a legitimate chance of getting into the playoffs this year, but only if there is an upgrade in the offense. I’ve long been a supporter of Butler, if for no other reason than the fact that he had a consistent track record of producing for the Royals. Unfortunately, he just isn’t producing this year and the Royals aren’t in a position of just letting him fight through it all year. So would I trade Butler? Yes, but ONLY IF IT IMPROVES THE OFFENSE. I put that in bold, because the team shouldn’t just trade him to trade him. No, they need to be confident that if they deal him what they have to replace his bat will be of greater value than what Billy would have brought them for the rest of the year. Otherwise you are weakening an already bi-polar offense that has two players(Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas) who the team doesn’t know if they can trust to be solid offensive contributors. It’s sad to say, but it might be the best for both the Royals and  Billy to part ways. In two years Butler has gone from being willing to run through a brick wall for the team and its fans to “favoriting” a post about the trade rumors between Seattle and Kansas City on Twitter:

At this point, the Royals need an answer offensively. It appears more and more everyday Billy Butler isn’t that answer. Soon enough we will know if “Country Breakfast” is helping the Royals or the Mariners make a playoff push.

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This past weekend I made a trek to my home away from home, Kauffman Stadium. With the temperatures reaching the mid-90′s on Saturday we decided to venture into the air conditioned Royals Hall of Fame, if for no reason than to keep cool. While in there we decided to check out a film the Royals have on the history of baseball in Kansas City. While we watched the video, I was reminded of just why Kansas City really is a baseball town. Near the end of the film they showed highlights from the Royals winning the World Series in 1985 and then proceeded to mention how former Royals manager Dick Howser would pass away just a few years later from brain cancer. They then discussed Buck O’Neil for a bit, showed a few highlights(including the Justin Maxwell walk off grand slam last year) and the film was over. Yep, the video basically wraps up after the Royals winning the World Series 29 years ago. As a longtime Kansas City fan, I felt a bit insulted. You mean we are supposed to believe that nothing has happened in 29 years? Trust me, I am well aware this team hasn’t appeared in the playoffs since then, and as fans we have endured MANY pitiful and craptastic teams…but we have nothing to show off since then? I disagree. In fact, I think they are quite a few things that should have been mentioned, even for just a mention in the film. With that being said, here are some moments I would have thrown into this film to celebrate this Kansas City Royals team.

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1) Bo Jackson

Yes, I know Bo isn’t one of the greatest Royals ever. I realize that he was a shining star that we only got to marvel at for a few years. But in those few years we saw possibly the greatest athlete in Royals history and a caliber of player we might never see again in our lifetime. Bo wasn’t about numbers, unless you count the distance on homers or how far it is to throw a baseball from the warning track to home plate with no bounce. Bo Jackson was that special player that only comes along once in a lifetime and he was a Royal, through and through. The film could have shown a few highlights from his time with Kansas City and some of the mind bending feats Bo was famous for. Bo had his faults as a player but he was a big part of those late 80′s Royals team and someone who was one of the most mainstream athletes of that era. Trust me, Bo Jackson is a big part of Royals history, even if he only makes sporadic appearances at ‘The K’.

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2) Bret Saberhagen Throws a No-Hitter

Bret Saberhagen was the ace of the Royals pitching staff from 1985 until he was traded to the New York Mets in the winter of 1991. But in August of that year, Saberhagen threw his greatest game ever, a no-hitter against the Chicago White Sox. It was an odd game in that Sabs let his defense do most of the work on this night, only racking up 5 strikeouts and 2 walks in his 9 innings of work. It was the fourth no-hitter in Royals history and was a cherry on top of a fantastic career in Kansas City. Sure, you could mention the two American League Cy Young Awards he won, or his All Star elections, but throwing in a clip of the last no-hitter in Royals history would have been a nice touch and a great moment for the Royals.

 

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3) George Brett gets his 3,000th Hit

Brett is easily the greatest Royal in history and a man cherished by Royals fans everywhere. There were a few big accomplishments for George late in his career, like Brett winning his third batting title in 1990, the only man to record batting titles in three different decades. But his biggest moment late in his career was reaching the 3,000 hit mark, which almost assures a player induction into the baseball Hall of Fame(or at least it used to). Brett would have a four hit game that night in Anaheim and hit number four was lined past the Angels second baseman for the momentous hit. Brett would wrap up his career a year later, but throwing in this key moment in Royals history would seem like a “must have”.

 

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4) A Cavalcade of Stars

For a long time in the late 90′s and early 2000′s the running joke around baseball was that the Royals were a farm club for the bigger market teams like the New York Yankees. It wasn’t literally like that, but it was fairly well known that when a player would start to become a star for Kansas City they wouldn’t be able to re-sign them and would have to deal them before they became a free agent. The bigger point was that the Royals were developing stars that would shine on the baseball diamond. Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye and Mike Sweeney all became star players during this period and pointing this out in the history of this team isn’t a bad thing. Sure, it sucked that the Royals felt forced to trade all of them(besides Sweeney) but these were all guys that we could say were Royals first(or in Dye’s case the place that gave him a chance to be a starter). To go a step further you could also point out in the film all the other talent the Royals have produced in the last 30 years, including the stars of today. What better way to point this out than to show three players who have been All-Stars for Kansas City the last two seasons: Alex Gordon, Greg Holland and Salvador Perez. This franchise has produced some major talent over the years and it’s something that should be marked down in the team’s history.

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5) Zack Greinke is Spelled ‘Cy Young’

Zack Greinke had a special 2009 season. A season that very few pitchers have ever achieved. A season so good that he would become the American League Cy Young Award winner that year. Most remember his messy exit out of Kansas City but for awhile there he was the heart of the Royals, a true ace on a losing team. Greinke would go 16-8 with a major league-low 2.16 ERA that season and received 25 of 28 first-place votes and three seconds for 134 points in balloting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Greinke was so dominate that year that the Royals scored just 13 runs in his eight losses and 21 runs in his nine no-decisions. He failed to get a victory in six starts in which he allowed one run or none. The Greinke/Royals relationship would become ugly soon enough, but for that one season the Royals could champion that they had the best pitcher in the American League.

 

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I’m sure if I thought about it more I could come up with many more positives the Royals have had over these past 29 years. Whether it is the 3 Gold Glove winners the team had last season or some of thrilling moments at ‘The K’, it’s not all been bad during this team’s playoff drought. We all acknowledge that there have been some rough times and we don’t want to relive most of them. But there are some great moments or personal seasons that the Royals could throw into their film and truly show the history of a great franchise. I don’t want to discourage anyone from watching the film at the Royals Hall of Fame; it’s a great film and deserves your time. But I think it could be better, and the suggestions above would make a great start. Who knows? Maybe this Royals team can secure a playoff spot this year so the team is forced to make a new video. Weirder things have happened. Don’t believe me? Just go back to 1985…

Eric Hosmer

“I’ve been through it too many times,” Hosmer said. “I’ve gone through a rough start. I’ve gone through a whole rough year. I know my abilities, and I know I can get hot.”

Slumps are a funny thing. Most baseball players incur at least one per season, some longer than others. It’s a long season and things aren’t bound to be perfect for anyone the entire time. But when do slumps curtail into a whole new territory, that of a player either losing playing time or being moved down in the lineup? To ask a more pointed question, why is potential sometimes rated higher than actual production? The Kansas City Royals are dealing with this very issue at the moment, with both Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer struggling. But while Butler’s slump has mainly been the last few weeks, Hosmer’s is closing in on two months. Yet Hosmer continues to bat near the top of the order, and Butler has been dropped down the order to 7th. But is this the smartest move for a team wanting to reach the playoffs this year?

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“I can take it. I guess I’m a mentally tough guy. He could do it to somebody else, but I think he knows how I’ll take it.”

This was the sentiment felt by Butler after Friday’s loss to Cleveland. Obviously you can see the frustration from Billy, as well as the thinly veiled shot at Hosmer. With that being said let’s lay our truth cards out on the table; Billy Butler isn’t the Butler from 2012. At this point, Billy isn’t even the Butler from 2013. No, this Billy Butler has a combined 20 extra base hits and an OPS+ of 84(to judge against years past, since 2009 he has averaged between 138 and 116). His numbers are down across the board and even a red hot second half could probably not help most of his power numbers(slugging percentage this year is at an all time low). The biggest culprit is probably the rise in the amount of ground balls he has hit, as his ground ball to fly ball rate is at it’s highest this season(1.18). So by no means is this a declaration that Billy Butler is hitting the way he should nor is it saying that Billy is knocking the cover off the ball. But he has been producing more than Hosmer as of late.

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“He’s a guy that can hit .220 one month, and .360 the next.”

Royals manager Ned Yost obviously has faith in Eric Hosmer and his potential. Potential is what is keeping Hosmer near the top of the lineup the last couple months despite his prolonged slump. It’s a slump that has seen his OPS to fall from .800 to .648 and his double in yesterday’s game against Cleveland was his first extra base hit since June 18th. Hosmer’s main issue has been a lack of plate discipline. He is hacking at a career high 38.3 percent of balls outside of the strike zone and has 9 walks over the last month compared to 15 strikeouts over that same span. During this same span, Butler is hitting .311, and has an OPS of .781. For a guy who is batting near the top of the order, Hosmer should at least be getting on base. Unfortunately his on base percentage is below .300 this year and he isn’t driving in runs either. Hosmer’s numbers across the board are eerily similar to his disastrous 2012 season yet not only has Hosmer not been given a day off as of late, he was moved from 3rd to 2nd in the order(which means he would get even more at bats per game). So why was he moved up but Butler moved down? Potential.

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“I still feel he’s capable of being the Billy that we’ve had,” Yost said. “He hasn’t really been.”

Sam Mellinger wrote a great piece on this situation and why it is unfolding the way it is. The main thing to take from it is that the Royals see Hosmer filling his potential before Butler becomes the Billy of old. The problem is that doesn’t mean you can’t lower Hosmer in the lineup as well. I understand potential as much as the next guy, but when you need more offense it makes no sense to leave a player near the top of the order because of potential. What you need is actual, real production, not the possibility of production because that might never happen. My biggest beef to this whole scenario is this comment made here:

“The truth is that Hosmer’s spot in the lineup is being evaluated, but for now, the team sees Butler as an underperforming and now overpaid hitter on a roster in desperate need of consistent production…”

Hosmer’s spot is being evaluated? That is a sign that they just aren’t willing to face the reality that he isn’t producing. To add to that, if Butler is underperforming from his last month, what the hell is Hosmer’s last two months?? It’s obvious here that the club has soured on Billy and still considers Hosmer their “Golden Child”, despite the fact their true “Golden Child” is behind home plate. It’s a fairly well known fact that Butler has an option at the end of the year and Mellinger spoke what most of us have known for awhile now:

“For Butler, he must know there is little chance the Royals will pick up a $12.5 million option for next season. He is a full-time designated hitter in a modern baseball world that no longer values full-time DHs, and is having his worst career year at the worst possible time.”

Logic says that the Royals are smart in not picking up Billy’s option. I agree with that sentiment, especially since the club would like some more flexibility in the lineup and the ability to rest Salvador Perez’s knees from time to time by placing him at DH. With that being said, Billy is pretty untradeable at this point(I honestly don’t think the Royals would get a player in return that they feel would be at proper value) and even if they wanted to replace him, there is no one to take over the spot and produce even the below average numbers he has this year. Raul Ibanez? Please. There is a reason the Angels released him. Anyone in the minors? No one with near the pop Butler can have when he is on his game. Even the Royals understand this:

” So by now, even with both sides understanding they are likely breaking up at the end of the year, both sides also understand their mutual dependence. The Royals need Butler hitting to win, and Butler needs opportunities in the lineup to hit.”

Mellinger adds:

“Neither team nor player can fully succeed without the other, and in a season that each side has spent so much time working toward, ultimate success will depend heavily on recognizing that simple fact.”

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“That is what happens when things start to go south for him,” one American League scout said. “He tries to swing his way out of it.”

So Billy is going nowhere for now, same with Hosmer. But that doesn’t mean Hosmer shouldn’t be lowered in the lineup. At this point potential only matters in that Hosmer has a spot in the lineup. Without him producing and his inability to get on base it only makes sense for Kansas City to lower him in the lineup and insert someone who gets on base(like Alcides Escobar) in the 2nd spot of the order. It only hurts the Royals when Hosmer is allowed to get the second most AB’s every game when there are suitable replacements that can be shuffled. It’s also hurting Hosmer, as it has become glaringly obvious that dealing with pressure does not help his psyche. If the Royals are serious about winning then you put the best lineup out that that will produce.

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Potential is a slippery slope that can suck you up and make people in baseball make stupid decisions. The honest truth is sometimes potential just doesn’t pan out. This is the third straight season Eric Hosmer has gone through a long stretch of a season where he has just looked lost. As much as myself and others want to believe that he can reach the potential most of us believe he has, it is starting to look as if the mental aspect of the game messes with his physical part. The Royals are insistent that Hosmer will just one day play at the caliber he did his rookie year or in the second half of 2013. The honest truth is that there are no guarantees in baseball and you realistically you have to produce. Both Hosmer and Butler aren’t producing the way the Royals need them too, and neither is truly reaching their true potential. If you ask me, I trust the guy with the track record(Butler) over the guy who has shown he isn’t a consistent hitter(Hosmer). The one thing both of them are doing is hurting the Royals chances of reaching the playoffs. The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Expecting Hosmer to live off potential is a mistake that needs to be rectified soon. Butler has been dropped in the order; now it’s time for Hosmer to do the same. Production is more valuable than potential in the present.

“It’s not the first time I’ve done it,” Hosmer said. “So it’s not panic, or nothing like that. You realize what you’ve got to do, and how you get out of it.”

Juan Marichal Hitting Catcher John Roseboro

I became infatuated early on in life with baseball.  By the age of ten it was what my world revolved around(that and Star Wars) and I began finding out everything I could about the game, including it’s history. Many images blazed a trail in my mind early on, like the video clips of Babe Ruth running fast around the bases or Pete Rose’s headfirst slide. But when I read about Giants pitcher Juan Marichal hitting Dodgers catcher John Roseboro with a baseball bat, I couldn’t get the image out of my head. Things got so bad that the batter hit the catcher with a bat? Whoa! This just never happened in baseball, yet at one point things got heated enough that a man hit another man in the head with a baseball bat. I knew the Dodgers and Giants rivalry was heated, but this was another level. I never learned much of why this happened but I’ve always been curious. Thanks to John Rosengren we now know.

John Roseboro and Willie Mays - Aftermath of Marichal Incident

Rosengren spends a lot of the early portion of the book discussing both Marichal and Roseboro and the early portions of their life, both before baseball and early in their careers. The picture that is drawn is one of two different people; one grew up in the Dominican Republic, the other in Ohio. But as much as those locations couldn’t be farther apart, they both knew what it felt like to be treated differently because of the color of their skin. You learn that Marichal is a warm, gentle man who felt he was misunderstood a lot once he got to the United States. Roseboro’s family was one of only a few of color in Ashland, Ohio, but John didn’t deal with a lot of the racial prejudice that many faced around the country at that time. John excelled in sports in school but was also a quiet man who didn’t socialize a lot. As much as you want to learn about the fight and how and why it happened, learning about the two players involved helps give you a better feel about the incident and how this was just an isolated incident, not a pattern of anger or violence.

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Maybe the most interesting part of the book is Marichal discussing some of the prejudice he encountered against Latinos in the game. Most of us are aware of the issues that African Americans encountered in baseball for the longest time, even after the racial barrier was crossed. The picture painted of was one of Latinos being taken advantage of by managers, owners and even Major League Baseball in general. A pitcher like Marichal, who at the time was very close to being the equal of the Dodgers Sandy Koufax, could never make close to the money Koufax was making. The language barrier was a big issue for many Latinos and in a lot of cases where Marichal was hurt or sick, the club just thought he was being lazy and didn’t want to “fight through it”. It is a real eye opener to realize that as much as we realize the biggest black eye on baseball throughout its history has been racial prejudice against African Americans, there was just as much prejudice going around for Latinos. The fact that both Marichal and Roseboro dealt with these issues while playing in the big leagues showed that these two men were more alike than either would have realized.

© Copyright 2013 CorbisCorporation

Now onto the fight. What you really get is that this was a perfect storm. Obviously the Giants and Dodgers playing each other means emotions are already heightened. Two teams, jockeying for position in a playoff push while already having quite a bit of dislike for each other is a recipe for disaster. I won’t give away what leads to the fight, but what I will say is that Marichal did not strike Roseboro out of anger. This fight might be the ugliest on a major league ball field in history and most of us can agree that something like this should never happen ever again. It’s interesting to hear how both sides felt after the incident and how the public and baseball felt. As much as the media wasn’t even close to invasive as it is now, there was still a very one-sided view of what happened, which still happens the majority of time today. The counter-effects of the fight were numerous and felt by both parties, which the author does a great job of relaying both and not taking a side either way.

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Over the years neither player was able to leave the incident behind them, as whenever either player was brought up, so was the fight. Time painted Marichal as the bad guy and Roseboro as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Over time Marichal would reach out to Roseboro, and the two men would even be able to bury the hatchet. For a number of years Marichal, despite having the numbers, wouldn’t be voted into the Hall of Fame, many citing the fight. This whole section of the book is a great view into the two former players relationship, as Roseboro feels the need to set the record straight and vouch for his friend, Marichal. Two men who at once were enemies on the field would grow a friendship that many former players never achieve, yet along two that were once at odds.

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To read about not only how close Marichal and Roseboro became but also how close both families would become really pointed out how we all make mistakes and holding onto anger doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself. John Rosengren did a great job of focusing more on the human aspect of these two men than just what they were as ballplayers. By the end of the book you really feel like you know the two of them and that they were not only good players, but good human beings. If you are a baseball fan you will love all the baseball talk that is in the book. But this is not just a baseball book; this is a book about two people, from two different worlds. One incident connects these two players for life but do not let it define them. Juan Marichal spoke at John Roseboro’s funeral and probably sums up everything the best someone could:

“Johnny’s forgiving me was one of the best things that happened in my life,” he said. “I wish I could have had John Roseboro as my catcher.”

I highly recommend following John Rosengren on twitter and also going and purchasing the book here. This is a great read that I will be picking up again at some point.

 

Kansas City Royals  v Cleveland Indians

It has not been the smoothest of rides to get where Danny Duffy is at this moment. If you can think of possible derailments for a player to be a consistent performer in the big leagues, Duffy has probably had it. Tommy John Surgery? Check. Left baseball for awhile for personal reasons? Check. Struggle with pitch efficiency? Check. The word potential has been floated around for years now around Duffy, but headed into this 2014 season it seemed that might be all we saw of him. But a few twists and turns(and an injury to the lovable Bruce Chen) have left Duffy in the brightest of spots; one of the best starters in the Kansas City Royals rotation this year.

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The season didn’t start out this year all sunshine and lollipops for Duffy, though. I remember watching a Spring Training game against the Rangers where he was all over the place with his location, which forced him to throw a few pitches down the heart of the plate. This lead to a couple of homers and a big inning for Texas. Outings like this lead the Royals to switch Duffy to the bullpen to start the year, where the thought was that he could harness his nasty stuff(plus fastball with late tail on it, sharp 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup over 10 mph slower than his fastball) and let it all hang out. It worked for awhile, but within a span of a week Duffy had a bad outing in Baltimore and then a few days later he faced two Toronto batters, hitting one and walking the other. None of his pitches were near the strike zone and he didn’t look comfortable on the mound. It made me make this observation:

Whoops! In my defense, 1) it was just an observation and 2) he just didn’t look like himself on the mound. I wasn’t implying that he was going to be the next Rick Ankiel or Steve Blass, but I won’t lie: the thought crossed my mind. This also happened the week that Bruce Chen went on the disabled list, which meant the Royals needed a starter to take his place that weekend. I was almost certain it wouldn’t be Duffy and was worried about what would happen if it was.

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Nothing spectacular happened that outing, but my concerns did go away and showed whatever I saw earlier in the week was unfounded. Duffy pitched what has been a normal outing for him the last few years, as he threw 4 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 run while striking out 2 and walking 4 against the Tigers. Duffy threw 75 pitches in those four innings, which at that point was average for him, as his pitch efficiency has always been the big concern. But then…then there was the outing against Baltimore. Duffy was perfect for 20 batters and pitched into the eighth inning, giving up only two hits. THIS  was the Duffy that everyone envisioned as he was coming up through Kansas City’s farm system. Since that start Duffy has been one of the most consistent starters in the Royals rotation, notwithstanding a hiccup here and there.  So what is Duffy doing differently?

MLB: Houston Astros at Kansas City Royals

The obvious answer here is that Duffy has learned how to use the spectacular Royals defense to his advantage and pitch more to contact rather than trying to strike everyone out. This is backed up by a lower strikeout rate(19.2%) and a higher balls in play percentage, which is up 5 percent(28.0%) . Obviously this has helped his pitch count a ton and led to him being able to last longer in the game than normal. His walk rate(10.0%) is also down, about 3.5 percent from last year and the lowest of his major league career. It also appears as if Duffy is inducing more ground balls than ever before in his career, as his ground outs to air outs ratio is at 0.55.

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The other thing that Duffy is doing better than ever is pitching ahead in the count. We’ve already seen this year how that has helped teammate Jason Vargas and it appears to have helped just as much for Duffy. His first pitch strike percentage is the highest it has ever been(58.3%), as is the amount of 0-2 counts he has achieved(28.8%). What seems the oddest fun stat for Duffy is the amount of strikeouts looking, which is sitting at 46.2% this year, almost twenty points higher than his previous high last year of 27.3%. Duffy over his career has had issues with not being able to finish batters off, which leads to numerous balls fouled off and a raise in his pitch count. This year he seems to be fooling batters more often and they don’t appear to be locked in on what Duffy will throw next.

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To me, the best part of Duffy’s game this year are the pitch counts. It has been obvious for a very long time that for him to be a major contributor for Kansas City Duffy would have to be a more efficient pitcher. This year he is doing that, as he is averaging 92 pitches per start, which isn’t much less than his career average. But what has changed is his innings pitched per start, which is up to 5.9 compared to last year’s 4.9 and 2012′s 4.6. So it’s obvious that he is throwing the same amount of pitches, just spread out longer, which is a great thing. So far this year Duffy has had one game where he threw under 80 pitches(which would have been his first start after leaving the bullpen), 6 games throwing between 80-99 pitches, and 3 games throwing between 100-119 pitches. With the way Duffy has been throwing, he has earned more faith from the Royals coaching staff and has been allowed to go longer in his games. That is nothing but positive for a team who will need him down the stretch if they are to be serious contenders.

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So after all this time and some losing faith(like myself), Danny Duffy has found himself in a position where he could be a difference maker this September for a playoff hopeful like Kansas City. At one time some of us debated whether Duffy should be a starter or pitch out of the pen. It now appears as if Duffy will be a fixture in the Royals rotation for years to come, barring an injury. His new found success couldn’t come to a better guy; the Royals need more guys who make comments like “bury me a Royal”. It proves once again that efficiency is the key to a pitcher’s success.