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Entries in Kansas City Royals (17)


Solving Breaking Stuff Key to Breakout for Hosmer, Moustakas

With Wil Myers headed to Tampa as part of the gargantuan bounty paid for James Shields, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas will be subject to even more scrutiny from Royals fans. Kansas City's cornerstone corner infielders, both former top ten prospects as rated by Baseball America, are coming off disappointing sophomore seasons. Hosmer didn't have many bounces go his way (his batting average on balls in play was just .255), but his slugging percentage dipped by over 100 points from 2011 (.465) to 2012 (.359). Moustakas, meanwhile, hit 20 homers but did so with a sub-.300 on-base percentage (.296).

For Hosmer and Moustakas to have breakout seasons, they'll first have to solve breaking stuff. Both struggled mightily against curveballs and sliders in 2012, with Hosmer posting the seventh-lowest slugging percentage (.233) among qualified hitters and Moustakas (.313) also doing far less damage than the league average (.357). Hosmer has to start lofting breaking stuff, while Moustakas has to stop lunging at it.

Check out Hosmer's ground ball rate by pitch location against breaking pitches, compared to the league average:

Hosmer's ground ball rate vs. curves and sliders


League average ground ball rate vs. curves and sliders

Hosmer hit a grounder about 57% of the time last year, way above the 47% major league average. Here are some of the players who hit grounders on breaking stuff about as often as Hosmer: Nyjer Morgan, Jose Tabata, Juan Pierre and Brian Bogusevic. Power hitters, those fellows are not.

While Hosmer hits too many choppers, Moustakas chases too many breaking pitches off the plate. Here's his swing rate by pitch location against curves and sliders, and then the league average:

Moustakas' swing rate vs. curves and sliders


League average swing rate vs. curves and sliders

Moustakas chased about 39% of breaking pitches thrown outside of the strike zone, compared to the 32% big league average. Perhaps recognizing his breaking ball giddiness, pitchers threw him a curve or slider over the plate just 41% of the time (46% MLB average).

Hosmer (entering his age-23 season) and Moustakas (24) both have youth on their side. But now that the Royals have decided that six years of potential superstar production from Myers is worth giving up for two years of Shields, K.C.'s corner infielders are under even more pressure to produce. Their performance against breaking stuff will be crucial during a make-or-break 2013 season.


All-Star Starters Debate

The 2012 Major League Baseball All Star Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City is only a few weeks away, and the fan voting is heating up. Household names like David Ortiz and Joey Votto are leading the charge, but old time players as well as new faces are making their way to the forefront.

Over the next few weeks, I will be chronicling the heated voting as well as cast my decision for who this year's all star starters should be.

First up this evening: American League Catcher which will feature Mike Napoli, Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters, AJ Pierzynski, and Jarrod Saltalamaccia.


Danny Duffy Becoming K Artist in K.C. 

The Kansas City Royals' starting rotation hasn't missed many bats since Zack Greinke was swapped to the Brewers prior to the 2011 season. In fact, the collective K rate of K.C.'s starters since 2011 (5.97 per nine innings) is the lowest in the American League this side of the ground ball-heavy Indians and the pitching pinata that is the Minnesota Twins' staff. But Danny Duffy is out to change that woeful whiff ranking.

While the 23-year-old lefty's control still needs plenty of work (he walked 4.4 batters per nine frames as a rookie in 2011, and 4.8 per nine so far in 2012), Duffy is punching out hitters at an elite clip. He has struck out 10.3 hitters per nine in 2012, the fourth-highest rate among starters throwing at least 20 innings and a big jump from last year's 7.4 K/9. Duffy's extra Ks come from a souped-up fastball and a change in curveball location that's leading to lots of awkward swings.

Duffy threw plenty hard as a rookie in 2011 (he averaged 93 mph with his fastball and topped out at 98.2 mph), but he has found even more giddy-up on the pitch this year. He is averaging 95.1 mph with his fastball and has gone as high as 99.5 mph on the radar gun. No starter this side of Stephen Strasburg brings that kind of heat:

Highest fastball velocity among starting pitchers, 2012

Stephen Strasburg 95.6
Danny Duffy 95.1
Jeff Samardzija 94.8
David Price 94.4
Neftali Feliz 94.4
Justin Verlander 94.1
Matt Moore 94
Juan Nicasio 93.7
Max Scherzer 93.7
Daniel Bard 93.7


Opponents have whiffed 21.6% of the time that they have swung at Duffy's fastball this year, up from 18.9% in 2011. Duffy's fastball miss rate places him in the top ten among starters:

PitcherMiss Pct.
Lance Lynn 26.4%
Drew Pomeranz 24.8%
Jeff Niemann 23.8%
Matt Moore 23.7%
Jake Peavy 22.9%
Jason Hammel 22.4%
Wandy Rodriguez 22.4%
Erik Bedard 22.4%
Kyle Drabek 21.6%
Danny Duffy 21.6%
MLB Avg. 14.5%


Duffy's fastball is vital to his success, as he's throwing the pitch two-thirds of the time and has used it to record 15 of his 26 K's. But by adding some zip to his curveball and deploying it as a chase pitch, Duffy is getting many more swings and misses with his breaking stuff as well.

His curve has also added a few ticks of velocity (from an average of 75.6 mph in 2011 to 77.2 in 2012). As a rookie, Duffy threw about 50% of his curves in the strike zone. This year, he's throwing 41% of them in the zone. His chase rate with the pitch has spiked. First, take a look at hitters' swing rate by pitch location against Duffy's curve last season, and then the league average for starters:

Hitters' swing rate by location vs. Duffy's curve, 2011

Average swing rate by location vs. curveballs, 2011

Though Duffy got some lefties to go after curves tossed low-and-away, his overall chase rate with the pitch (21%) was well below the American League average for starters (27%). In 2012, however, he's getting many more chases:

Hitters' swing rate by location vs. curveballs, 2012

Duffy's chase rate with the curveball has improved to a healthy 32%. Right-handed hitters are especially jumpy, going after 44% of curves thrown out of the zone. Those extra cuts on out-of-zone curves are resulting in more whiffs: Duffy's miss rate with this curve has climbed from 22% as a rookie to 34% in 2012 (the average for AL starters is about 26%).

Back as a prospect in 2010, Duffy actually briefly called it a career during spring training. But he missed the game and, seeing as he's left-handed and throws harder than nearly anyone on the planet, the Royals gladly welcomed him back. It's too early to tell whether Duffy is headed for Greinke-like acedom or perennial disappointment due to shaky control (see Sanchez, Jonathan), but his power fastball/curve combo is doing a fine job of making hitters contemplate their own retirement right now.