Perhaps the gun in Minnesota’s new Target Field is slow, but data from last night’s game shows that Zack Greinke did not top 94 mph with his fastball and averaged a modest 91.2 mph for the game. In fact, Zack hit 94 mph just once and that pitch resulted in a Michael Cuddyer double.
As we all know, a big part of Greinke’s elevation from potential to actual dominance as a starter was his realization that he could and should throw 96, 97 and even 98 mph at times. That Zack is ‘subtracting’ more than ‘adding’ to his fastball may well be a sign of a pitcher aiming instead of throwing. The reduced velocity has done nothing for Greinke’s control and, in fact, six of the eight straight balls he threw to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the third inning were fastballs.
If Greinke is going to use his changeup to a greater extent (he threw 22 last night), then pumping up his fastball to last season’s level will also be important. At one point last night, Greinke threw a 89 mph changeup. That is simply not enough disparity from the fastball velocity Zack was showing.
Of course, none of the above matters if Zack is only going to throw strikes fifty percent of the time. Perhaps it was just a bad night, or a bad approach or maybe even just a slow gun. Whatever the reason, the Royals cannot be anything but awful if Greinke continues to struggle.
Speaking of awful, how about that bullpen?
I teased on Thursday that Kyle Farnsworth was the only reliever to not have issued a walk thus far. Well, Kyle rectified that in a hurry by walking the second batter he faced on Friday night and hitting the next: on an 0-2 count.
While a quick look at the box score shows that Dusty Hughes followed with an inning and a third of scoreless relief, let’s not fool ourselves. Relieving Farnsworth with the bases loaded an no out, Hughes got two outs on drives to the warning track and the third when Justin Morneau simply missed on a changeup that was well up in the zone.
The usual bullpen performance (at least when John Parrish and Joakim Soria don’t pitch) was topped off by simply bad appearances by Robinson Tejeda and Juan Cruz. I actually feel bad for Trey Hillman at this point. He correctly would like to save Parrish and Soria for games in which the Royals are protecting a lead (or at least close), but every other pitcher in the pen enters the game carrying his own personal gas can and lighter. Something tells me Josh Rupe is not going to solve that problem.
This afternoon, we get our second look at Gil Meche and our first look at Alex Gordon.