Tag Archives: Danny Duffy

Do-or-Die for Team USA in World Baseball Classic

To borrow a phrase from Yogi Berra, for Team USA it’s a case of “deja vu all over again” in the 2017 WBC.
The disappointing performance of American teams over the history of the World Baseball Classic is well established. Team USA did not take home a medal from any of the previous incarnations of what has become baseball’s top international competition.
After a tough 5-4 loss to Puerto Rico on Friday night, the American team is once again facing disappointment. They now take on the defending champions from the Dominican Republic on Saturday night in San Diego in a win-or-go-home game.
US skipper Jim Leyland will send Danny Duffy to the mound in this pivotal matchup. The talented lefty from the Kansas City Royals was dominating in his previous start. Duffy struck out seven, walked none, and allowed just two hits in four shutout frames against Team Canada in the opening round last Sunday.
Duffy was a teammate of the late Yordano Ventura with the Royals. The young pitcher was killed in a tragic auto accident this off-season, and he and Duffy were close. Ventura was Dominican, and his jersey will hang in the DR dugout during tonight’s game.

Duffy was quoted by Bob Nightengale for USA Today in relation to Ventura:
“It’s going to be tough…I’m doing everything I can to honor him and just play like him. So, seeing that jersey is obviously going to be difficult…I loved that kid. He was my little brother. We came up together, and obviously he had that kind of fire that you can’t teach.”

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC PROVIDES SERIOUS CHALLENGE

Getting the start on the mound for the Dominican Republic will be Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins. This will be Santana’s first appearance in this World Baseball Classic.
The Dominicans feature a veritable all-star lineup. The club features the big bats of Manny MachadoAdrian BeltreNelson CruzJose BautistaCarlos SantanaRobinson Cano, and Gregory Polanco. There is speed on the bases with Jose ReyesStarling Marte, and Jean Segura.
The American attack has been led to this point by Christian YelichEric HosmerAndruw Jones, and middle infielders Ian Kinsler and Brandon Crawford.
This WBC was expected to be a sort-of coming-out party for mega-talented third baseman Nolan Arenado. But the Colorado Rockies star has just one hit, a home run, in his 15 at-bats to this point.
For the US to win, Arenado has to step up. So does someone from among the combination of Giancarlo StantonAndrew McCutchen, and Buster Posey. Those three stars are a combined 4-23 with four RBI and two runs scored in the WBC.
For the United States to avoid another disappointing finish, they are going to need a big performance tonight from Duffy. They are also going to need their offensive stars to wake up and produce.
The winner of tonight’s game will advance into the 2017 World Baseball Classic semi-finals. There they will join the teams from Puerto Rico, Japan, and the Netherlands.
Win tonight, and the United States will meet Japan on Tuesday for a chance at playing for the WBC championship on Wednesday. Lose, and Team USA will go home, once again disappointing the nation that gave birth to the game of baseball.

Can the Royals Bounce Back and Contend in 2017?

The Kansas City Royals and their fans suffered through nine straight losing campaigns and 17 of 18 dating back to the 1994 strike season.
Then in the early part of this decade, the club began to build up one of the top farm systems in the game.
It all came together for them at the big league level with back to back AL pennants in 2014 and 2015, and a World Series championship in 2015.
But this year the Royals slid back to the .500 mark, finishing in third place in the American League Central Division. They were 13.5 games behind the division-winning Cleveland Indians, and eight games behind the AL Wildcard pace.
It was a frustrating summer for the defending champs. But that eight game difference between themselves and the playoff teams is not insurmountable.
The Royals plan to return to that postseason contention in 2017, but is that a reasonable goal? With a few tweaks, some breaks, and not unreasonable improve performances, the club can indeed reach the postseason once again.

LINEUP LOSSES IN PLAYERS AND PRODUCTION

Kansas City lost a bunch of key players from their lineup in 2016, costing them both firepower and veteran influence.
Ben Zobrist was always likely a one-year rental, and possibly an expensive one considering good-looking pitcher Sean Manaea went to Oakland in that 2015 trade deadline deal.
Since Zobrist was a key player in actually winning a World Series, it will always have been worth the cost. It worked out for him, of course, as Zobrist became the MVP of another World Series winner with the Cubs.
Third baseman Mike Moustakas lost his season in May to a torn ACL. Moustakas is expected to be ready for spring training and the 2017 season when, at 28 years of age, he should be just entering his prime.
Two of the club’s best run producers, first baseman Eric Hosmer and DH Kendrys Morales, slipped this season.
While Hosmer hit seven more homers and knocked in 11 more runs, he also roped nine fewer doubles and scored 18 fewer runs. His average and on-base percentage each fell more than 30 points.
Morales hit eight more homers but knocked in 13 fewer runs, while his average and on-base percentage each dropped precipitously as well. He will turn 34 years old in June, and ended up leaving for the Toronto Blue Jays via free agency earlier this month.

MOUND MINUSES AND INJURIES HURT

On the mound, Edinson Volquez needed to step up this year. Instead, he stepped down. Volquez’ ERA rose nearly two full points, as did his Hits/9 ratio. He is now a free agent.
Yordano Ventura went from an 8.5 to 9.2 H/9 , allowed nine more home runs, and saw his K/9 drop from 8.6 to 7.0.
Wade Davis was dominating in 2015 when he pitching in a staff-high 69 games. He missed half of July and then the entire month of August due to a forearm strain this season.
Greg Holland had been a strong closer in 2015. But he became a free agent after that season, and then missed the entire 2016 season after needing Tommy John surgery. He is back on the free agent market, though a return to Kansas City is almost certainly not going to happen.

HOW ROYALS LINEUP COULD CONTEND IN 2017

With so many losses and question marks, how can Kansas City hope to contend in 2017?
Part of that answer comes from their own homegrown core of players in Hosmer, Moustakas, catcher Salvador Perez, and left fielder Alex Gordon. Every one of those players was down in some way this year. A bounce-back from those four would go a long way towards contention.
Another key player who needs a recovery season is center fielder Lorenzo Cain. He went from nearly winning the AL MVP in 2015 to being just another guy this past season. Cain has much more talent than he flashed in the 2016 season.
From August 9 on, Jarrod Dyson hit .321 with a .372 on-base percentage and 14 stolen bases. He can be a lineup catalyst.
25-year old Hunter Dozier re-emerged as a prospect, and then made his big league debut. If he can translate his minor league improvement into big league production, it would add another potent bat to the mix.

ROYALS PITCHING RECOVERIES ARE KEY

On the mound, the Royals 2016 Player of the Year was lefty Danny Duffy. He will be a full-time member of the rotation next season after an outstanding summer split between the rotation and bullpen this year.
Jason Vargas was able to return to the rotation at the very end of the season after missing most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery. He is being counted on as a member of the 2017 rotation.
Duffy, Ventura, Vargas, and steady Ian Kennedy would make up a group that, if healthy, can be a Wildcard-contending rotation. There are a number of fifth starter candidates who could also step forward.
In the bullpen, Davis needs to come back strong. If he can return to closing and get solid support from veteran Joakim Soria and youngsters Kelvin Herrera and Matt Strahm, this can be a strong relief corps.
A few of these players will become free agents after the 2017 season, so if it doesn’t work out over the first few months, the trade deadline probably becomes time for management and ownership to make deals to replenish the farm system and try building once again.
With a smart, inexpensive free agent signing or two and the right answers from the players mentioned here, Kansas City can again contend in 2017. With the wrong moves and the wrong answers, they could find the whole team blown up just two years after winning a World Series.

Royals 2016 POY: Danny Duffy

For the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, the 2016 season proved to be one of major disappointment.
After three straight winning seasons, including back-to-back American League pennants, manager Ned Yost‘s squad finished exactly at the .500 mark with an 81-81 record. It was good enough for just third place in the AL Central Division.

Royals 2016 Statistical Leaders

DH Kendrys Morales paced the team with 30 homers, and his 93 RBI were second on the club. Leading in that RBI category was first baseman Eric Hosmer with 104. He also led the club with 80 runs scored, and banged 25 homers while making the AL All-Star team.
Catcher Salvador Perez produced 22 home runs and 64 RBI, was an AL All-Star, and took home both a Silver Slugger and a Gold Glove Award.
Right fielder Paulo Orlando for a team-high .302 average, while 27-year old rookie second baseman Whit Merrifield hit .283 with 44 runs scored in what amounted to a half-season of work.

On the mound, Ian Kennedy won 11 games with a tidy 3.68 ERA, allowing 173 hits over 195.2 innings with 184 strikeouts. Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez won 11 and 10 games each.
The Royals lost closer Wade Davis for part of July and all of August to injury, but in the 45 games in which he appeared, Davis recorded 27 Saves with a 1.87 ERA and 1.131 WHIP. He allowed just 33 hits in 43.1 innings with a 47/16 K:BB ratio.
Kelvin Herrera stepped in for a dozen Saves in Davis’ absence. He produced a 2.75 ERA and 0.958 WHIP, allowing just 57 hits over 72 innings with an 86/12 K:BB ratio.

Duffy is the Kansas City 2016 Player of the Year

But the choice for the Royals top player overall in the 2016 went to a pitcher who performed both in the rotation and the bullpen, 27-year old southpaw Danny Duffy.
Duffy went 12-3 to lead the staff in victories, registering a 3.51 ERA and 1.141 WHIP. He allowed just 163 hits in 179.2 innings over 42 games, 26 of those as starting assignments.
Duffy had a 188/42 K:BB ratio as well, and his 4.2 WAR led the entire Kansas City ball club.
On August 1 at Tropicana Field, Duffy struck out 16 Tampa Bay Rays batters to set a franchise record. He came within six outs that night of pitching a no-hitter, finished with one hit allowed over eight innings.
After that outing, Yost commented on the improvement in Duffy’s game this season. The pitcher has seemed on the verge of big things previously in his career, only to be derailed by injuries or inconsistency.
“He’s definitely turned the corner,” Yost said per The Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd.That’s a big step, when you just take your game to the next level.”
In a season of disappointments, Danny Duffy stayed healthy and shined. For that he is the 2016 Kansas City Royals Player of the Year.

Giants Continue to Confound Me

Hunter Pence and Giants crush Royals in Series opener

I have nothing against the San Francisco Giants. I just don’t think they are as good as they have been playing this month. I may be wrong.

The Giants continue to confound me with their high level of play, and last night’s opening game of the 2014 World Series continued that streak.

San Francisco crushed the previously postseason unbeaten Kansas City Royals, on the road, with the Royals top starting pitcher on the mound. They did it the way that they’ve been doing much of their winning this October.

The Giants basic formula in their best games is to have ace Madison Bumgarner pitch a gem, shut the opposition down, and allow the clutch bats of Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Hunter Pence to come through with enough offense at some point to win the game. That is exactly what happened last night.

Bumgarner was fabulous. He went 7 innings, allowing just 3 hits, striking out 5, walking just one, and yielding just a single run. That run came via a 7th inning homer by Salvador Perez, my pick at the start to win World Series MVP honors. The Giants ace threw 106 pitches, 71 for strikes.

Meanwhile, the Posey-Panda-Pence combination all struck first inning blows, with the capper being a blast by Pence to dead centerfield. His homerun put San Fran up 3-0 on Shields, who struggled the entire game.

The Royals ace, nicknamed “Big Game James” during his time with Tampa Bay, was acquired by KC to push their young team to the next level. Mission accomplished. But he was also acquired, once there, to deliver in these biggest of games. So far this October, that has not been the case. Just 40 of his 71 pitches went for strikes, and he was gone after 3 innings.

Shields did not pitch the big game that the Royals needed

If there was one saving grace for the Royals, it was that they didn’t burn out their starter or their vaunted bullpen in this one. Shields 71 pitches will easily allow him to return for a rematch with Bumgarner in a Game 5, should the Series last that long. Manager Ned Yost used 3 relievers, but none of Danny Duffy, Tim Collins, or Jason Frasor are among the group that have made a real difference in the Royals success.

As I’ve stated a few times already in evaluating them, the Giants did not fare well in my final regular season Power Ranking. They finished just 17 of 30 MLB teams despite reaching the playoffs as a Wildcard. The PR doesn’t factor a team’s record. It is purely a reflection of their statistical performance in the areas of Hitting, Pitching, and Defense. The GMen were rated so low because, at least during the season, their defense was mediocre and their pitching often poor.

I did pick them to beat an overrated Pittsburgh team in that one-off Wildcard game. But since then, I had them losing in the NLDS to an all-around superior Washington Nationals squad, in the NLCS to a slightly better LA Dodgers team, and here in the World Series to a hot Royals squad .

What has happened is, the Giants have drawn on the experience of having won in October in both 2010 and 2012 to produce more consistently than any of their opponents in the increased pressure of playoff baseball. It is clear that, once a team reaches October and starts to get on a roll, you can toss the regular season statistics out the window.

Experience and momentum are clearly at work this Fall for the San Francisco Giants. The Royals are a very talented ballclub. They can still recover and win this thing. But if those two factors stay intact for the Giants for just a few more days, KC’s talent won’t matter a lick.

For the Royals to recover from the Game One debacle, they need to quickly develop some tough skin of their own. There is no magic button to push in order to make that happen. Someone, probably at least a couple of players, need to step up and make it happen. Someone needs to lead the Royals in voice, and more importantly, in deed. If not, the Giants will continue to confound me, all the way to their 3rd World Series title in 5 seasons.