1. Danny Duffy may be the best starter in the American League. Duffy took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finished with a Kansas City Royals franchise record 16 strikeouts, breaking Zack Greinke‘s mark of 15. This was the best stuff I’ve seen from a starting pitcher all season, as Duffy mixed in a sharp breaking curveball — it’s kind of like a slurve — with a nasty changeup that tailed away from right-handed batters and a fastball that averaged 94.2 mph with movement. Mean, unhittable stuff. At one point, Evan Longoria fanned in the seventh inning and just walked away, muttering to himself and shaking his head, kind of a “How am I supposed to hit this?” reaction.
The numbers bear out the dominance and the quality of his stuff. From ESPN Stats & Info, the most swings and misses in a game in the past 15 years:
1. Danny Duffy, Monday night: 35
1. Clayton Kershaw, Sept. 2, 2015: 35
3. Max Scherzer, May 11, 2016: 33
3. Jeremy Bonderman, Aug. 23, 2004: 33
5. Johan Santana, Aug. 19, 2007: 32
Duffy’s swing-and-miss percentage was the highest of any starter who threw at least 100 pitches in the past 15 seasons, as the Tampa Bay Rays missed on 35 of the 60 swings they took. In fact, this may have been the best start in Royals history. Duffy’s game score of 95 is a franchise record, as well, for a nine-inning game (Dick Drago had a 98, but over 12 innings). The previous high was 93, shared by Kevin Appier and Roger Nelson.
Duffy began the year in the bullpen after posting a 4.35 ERA as a starter last season. Yes, the Royals thought Chris Young and Kris Medlen were better rotation options coming out of spring training. Granted, Duffy has credited his work in the bullpen with making him better, and he pitched out of the stretch, but he has always had good stuff and had a 2.53 ERA back in 2014. Duffy now ranks fourth in the AL in ERA at 2.98, behind Aaron Sanchez (2.71), Cole Hamels (2.84), and Jose Quintana (2.89). OK, it’s a little too soon to say Duffy’s the best starter in the league. Let’s go with hottest starter, at least for now.
He also made one young fan a lifelong fan:
— Kansas City Royals (@Royals) August 2, 2016
Danny Duffy has the 19th 16-strikeout performance by a lefty since 1990. 14 of those games were thrown by Randy Johnson.
— Royals Review (@royalsreview) August 2, 2016
2. Max Kepler is the best German player of all time! The Minnesota Twins rookie slammed three home runs as they pounded Danny Salazar (who will have an MRI on Tuesday, so watch for that news). He had two chances for a fourth, but grounded out sharply in the eighth (against Andrew Miller, making his Indians debut) and singled in the ninth. How good has Kepler been? His 11 home runs since July 1 lead the majors and he’s now slugging .547 on the year. Not bad for a guy who hit nine home runs in the minors in 2015 — and just one in 30 games in Triple-A this year. Kepler became just the fifth Twins player with three home runs in a game: Justin Morneau, Tony Oliva, Harmon Killebrew, and Bob Allison.
As for the German thing, there have actually been 44 big leaguers BORN in Germany, but the others were either guys born before or soon after the turn of the 20th century who emigrated to the U.S. as children or players born to U.S. servicemen. Kepler was born and raised in Germany.
Max Kepler used Jorge Polanco’s bat tonight (who had 2 triples). #teammates
— Dustin Morse (@Twins_morsecode) August 2, 2016
We hold Max Kepler to three homers, but fall to the Twins.
See you guys tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/7e9SgFYdPY
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) August 2, 2016
3. The Yasiel Puig era in Los Angeles is unlikely to end well. Twitter briefly erupted when reports said Puig not only missed the team’s flight to Denver, but was nowhere to be found after storming out of the team’s clubhouse, apparently upset that the Dodgers acquired Josh Reddick or that he was being sent to the minors. Ken Rosenthal, one of the best in the business, made the report, so you wonder if someone burned him in order to make Puig look bad. Anyway, we don’t know the exact story, as the Dodgers declined to answer questions about Puig, and his agent later said Puig was told not to come to the park because he’d either be traded or demoted. So … stay tuned, but it appears Puig is headed to Oklahoma City.
Some players Puig has a higher WAR than this season:
Puig before saying he’ll cut down on his bat flips: .305/.386/.502
Puig after saying he’ll cut down on his bat flips: .258/.321/.411
— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) August 2, 2016
4. Kyle Hendricks, staff ace. OK, he’s not starting a playoff game over Jake Arrieta or Jon Lester. At least I don’t think so. Then again … well, he’s now 10-7 with a 2.22 ERA after shutting out the Miami Marlins on 123 pitches on Monday. Not only was he good, but he gave the Chicago Cubs‘ bullpen a much-needed day off.
lowest season ERA at Wrigley Field
Minimum 10 starts
1.11 Grover Cleveland Alexander, 1920
1.19 Kyle Hendricks, 2016
1.38 Mike Morgan, 1992
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) August 2, 2016
5. Oh, right, there were lots of trades. Here were my winners and losers. I didn’t mention every team in the piece — the San Francisco Giants should be regarded as winners, for example, although I’m not sure Matt Moore is a significant upgrade, and they gave up a useful player in Matt Duffy. The Pittsburgh Pirates? If I have time, more on their unique Francisco Liriano trade, where they traded two top-10 prospects to dump Liriano’s contract.