We’ve reached the point where every edition of Friday Notes is one edition closer to putting this season behind us and never talking about it again. I mean what more can you say? After a year where so much went right, it’s almost difficult at times to pick out the good things from the 2016 season. There are a couple, and I’ll talk about them below, so it’s not all lost. Plus, like I mentioned yesterday, it’s not often that a team in the middle of a championship window gets the chance to evaluate young talent for two months before getting back to your title aspirations. You’d prefer to not have this chance, but that’s the optimistic view. That and the extra slot money in the draft for picking higher.
- Sometimes in a bad season, you have to squint to see the silver lining. You see a walk rate up by a point or two and think that’s a good sign for the future. You see a guy maybe taking better reads on fly balls. Whatever it might be, it’s hard to find sometimes. And then other times, it smacks you in the face so hard that you can’t stop smiling about the fact that you got hit. Danny Duffy is the one that just slaps you in the face. He’s the ace of this stuff and looking, at times, like he might be an actual, honest to goodness ace. Personally, I think he’s more of a number two in baseball terms, but what he’s done as a starter has been so impressive. To me, it’s about two things – the innings and the command. Those are both issues he struggled with in the past, and they obviously go hand in hand. His strike throwing gets in the way sometimes as he’s given up a few more homers than you’d like (but still not nearly as many as some of his pals in the rotation), but man is he good. He’s getting deep into games, recording an out in the seventh or later in seven of his last 11 starts. He’s gone at least eight innings three times. He now holds the Royals single game strikeout record. He’s good. This is fun.
- Another bright spot that we could be watching over the next couple months is Matt Strahm. He was called up to take the spot of Wade Davis on the roster, but he’s making a case to stay the rest of the season. He’s been hitting 97 mph with his fastball and looking like a guy who could make an impact in the back of a bullpen. He’s recorded six outs in three appearances with five strikeouts. The Royals clearly love him, given many of the comments about him out of spring training, so I think he’s going to be one of their guys that gets a long look. I still see a starter in Strahm, but I actually kind of like bringing him along in the bullpen for the time being and even to start the year next year. Maybe we can call it the Danny Duffy Plan for him. Or if you prefer, you can see what the Orioles have done with Dylan Bundy this year and call it that. Either way, I think he’s a big leaguer right now and can help this team for the entire season next year.
- I haven’t really talked much about this deal, and even though it’s a week old almost, I’m going to now. I don’t really understand the Brett Eibner for Billy Burns swap. I don’t think it’s a big deal either way because I’m not sure either one of them is a starting outfielder in the big leagues, but I’m also not really sure what the point was. I think an organization so devoid of power really could use a guy like Eibner. That said, there are plenty of corner outfielders in the minors who need playing time, and Eibner has been surpassed on the prospect list by at least Jorge Bonifacio and maybe Hunter Dozier if he get some time in the outfield. Still, I also don’t think Burns is very good. And for those who think he’s a Jarrod Dyson replacement, I could see it, but I also question whether or not the Royals would non-tender or trade Dyson when he’ll be relatively inexpensive next year, is better than Burns and is a key figure in that clubhouse.
- Given the issues with Joakim Soria and the health of the bullpen, I think it’s time to see what youngsters can hack it in the eighth inning and other high leverage situations. I mentioned Strahm above, and I think he’ll get a real shot to fill that role moving forward, but Brian Flynn needs to get an opportunity to show if his solid relief work can extend to the late innings. I’m also interested to see if Andrew Edwards can bring his strikeout stuff to the big leagues and become a bridge guy. There’s simply no reason to carry a guy like Chien-Ming Wang who isn’t even good when the season has become what it’s become. Get the young guys up to pitch. I really think the bullpen can go back to being a dominant strength next year if they’re able to bring back Greg Holland and he’s healthy and put him with Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Strahm, maybe Edwards and use Soria as a middle reliever. Why not find out now?
- I’ve talked about this on Twitter a little bit, but I’m just a little perplexed by what people seem to think of Ian Kennedy. I completely understand being upset with the home runs. He’s given up an awful lot. It’s somewhat to be expected as a fly ball pitcher, but I don’t think anyone expected this much. Even with those, he has a 4.03 ERA with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings. He’s given up just 7.7 hits per nine and with his decent control, he has a WHIP of 1.19. I think he spends a little too much time in the strike zone with a fastball that isn’t elite, which is what accounts for his homers, but that’s a pretty darn solid line. And for those who don’t think his contract should return “solid” numbers, I invite you to take a look at what solid pitchers are paid. The $14 million AAV he’s set to earn over the life of his contract is very much in line with what solid innings eaters earn. Now, I will say that he hasn’t given the innings I expected, but he’s been much better than many would lead you to believe.