The Royals haven’t been afraid to let their young players start the service time clock so far in this crazy season. It started with Brady Singer, and now Kris Bubic got the call.
He’s a lefty working in the low-90’s with the fastball. His calling card, however is his big changeup. Bubic was able to get whiffs in the minors, though before his debut he had never pitched above A+. A weird delivery and a potentially double-plus changeup from a lefty can be a lot of fun.
Here’s what I saw.
Things started off rocky in the first. The umpire squeezed him a few times. His first pitch was a 93 MPH fastball to Tim Anderson that missed low.
The next pitch didn’t help things, as he hung a changeup that was laced down the line by Anderson for a double.
After walking Yoan Moncada on four straight pitches, Bubic was able to find the zone on a 1-0 changeup to Jose Abreu.
Bubic got to an even 2-2 count and used the curveball for the first time to induce a 5-4-3 double play.
Next thing you know, he settled in. The umpire gave him a call and he got a looking strikeout to Yasmani Grandal on a 1-2 fastball at 95 MPH, hardest of the inning.
In the first inning it seems like his nerves were there. The ball was missing the zone quite a bit. Once he got a call and an out he settled in. He left himself a good springboard for inning number two.
One of the things I liked most about this first inning is that he flashed all of his pitches, and in varying counts. That tells me he has confidence in his stuff to get the job done. He just needed to settle in and get ready to go.
The umpire did squeeze him a few times, but he was kind of all over the place. It’s hard to settle in when the first batter you face ends up on second, but he was able to escape the inning with no runs. He even recorded his first career strikeout against a really good hitter in Grandal.
All in all, it was a solid first inning. The nerves were pretty evident, but once he settled in he was able to escape a jam. The composure it took to locate that curveball and induce the double play, then finish the job with a strikeout, was very impressive.
A couple of fastballs saw Bubic in a 1-1 count to Eloy Jimenez. The he spotted a changeup very well on the outside part of the plate, which resulted in a Nicky Lopez error.
He threw a pair of fastballs up to Luis Robert that got fouled straight back. At 0-2, Bubic went to the changeup again and got Robert to roll it over. Robert is fast though, so he beat out the double-play attempt.
After hitting James McCann, Bubic found himself in a sticky situation once again. This time he wouldn’t escape. He made some good pitches and ended up 2-2 and throwing a curveball that broke directly over the plate for Adam Engel.
Bubic came back strong though with a 94 MPH fastball in the zone to Nick Madrigal. Another nice changeup resulted in a half swing and an out from Madrigal.
He showed his deception later in the inning, causing Robert to reach for a 2-2 changeup and barely foul it away.
Finally he escaped the inning when Yoan Moncada hit a weak pop out on a well-placed changeup.
He threw 31 pitches just in the second inning. The error didn’t help things, but Bubic also didn’t help himself a lot afterward. But let me say this, he had hitters off balance. It’s not easy to get major league hitters reaching like that, or swinging through center-cut fastballs at 91 MPH. Bubic was doing that.
Unfortunately for Bubic what kept happening is a pitch would creep over the middle of the plate and the hitters took advantage. He found himself in pitchers counts early in the inning, but after a few mistakes he started to nibble a little more.
By this time in the game, one thing was clear: Bubic was going to live off of his changeup. It’s a great pitch and he will throw it in any count, and he plays his fastball and breaking ball off of the changeup. He went to that pitch when things started to get a little hard.
The other big takeaway from inning number two is that he didn’t have the release point on his curveball. He threw a handful of them, but they just stayed up above the zone.
The third inning was a lot better from the start. Facing the heart of the order, Bubic got things going with a beautifully placed fastball at the knees.
The second pitch to Abreu was just as good. Finally ahead in the count, we were able to see him sequence with a changeup dotted on the outer corner.
After he missed with a curveball, Bubic put Abreu away with another changeup.
He followed this strikeout up with another one against Grandal on a, you guessed it, changeup. If you’re keeping score at home, he struck out Grandal twice AND made him lose his bat!
This inning was so much better. Bubic looked like almost a new pitcher out there. This time, it only took him 11 pitches to get a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. His approach was still heavy on the secondaries, but it worked a lot better when he was spotting them up.
Against Abreu, Bubic changed speeds to go up 0-2, then made him swing through a nice changeup. Grandal was a similar light, except he came back from throwing two offspeed pitches in the other batters box to get the strikeout.
Bubic did throw more curveballs and they were better. After losing the release point in the previous inning, he made the adjustment. Another very good sign from a young arm.
There really isn’t much else to say except for Bubic look relaxed in this inning. This was the inning that showed why the Royals thought he was ready to make the big jump from A+ to MLB. He located relatively well, and changed speeds VERY well.
This inning started like the last one, with a wonderfully placed pitch for a strike,. This one a fastball.
The next memorable pitch was a curveball. All night he was trying to get the pitch to break into a righty’s hands and he finally (somewhat) was able to execute it. Though he wanted it more inside than it ended up, Robert was only able to foul it away.
Bubic hit McCann again, this time in the forearm. It looked like it affected Bubic a bit, as the next two heaters were both 89 MPH.
In what would be his final pitch of the game, Bubic set down Madrigal on a low changeup. This was good to see after he was missing high for a lot of this inning.
Outside of the hit by pitch, the results of this inning were great. However, Bubic did look like he got tired, which makes sense with a pitch count north of 70 in the fourth inning. A lot of his pitches missed up and a couple of them weren’t close. He hung around though and battled his way out of that inning.
He was still able to use his changeup effectively though. This inning might’ve showcased better than any other how steady his arm speed is regardless of which pitch he was throwing. Look no further than that Robert groundout. That was a changeup up in the zone on the outer third, and Robert hit it on the ground.
This was the first time his fastball dipped under 90 MPH, with a few fastballs at 89 MPH. This is worth mentioning because it didn’t seem like that was due to fatigue. Both of those were the two pitches immediately following a 92 MPH fastball that clipped McCann on the forearm. Lucky for him, the second 89 MPH fastball was bunted by Engel for an out and the next fastball was up to 91 MPH.
No strikeouts, but the story of Bubic really continued. He kept these hitters off balance with a very deceptive changeup.
The nerves at the beginning were expected. Remember, before this Bubic hadn’t pitched higher than A+. The third inning is when it really looked like he settled in and he was outstanding. If his pitch count weren’t so high, he was poised to do the same thing in the fourth. Even with the fatigue, he still spotted up pitches better and had more confidence.
If he could get a couple pitches back that broke too far over the plate, this start looks a lot better. But that’s baseball. As it is, he struck out Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal (twice). Those are some legit veterans.
He lived and died with his changeup. That will continue to happen, it’s his best pitch. The final breakdown saw him throw 45 changeups, 42 fastballs, and 12 curveballs. He used all these pitches in every count. The confidence in his stuff was really fun to see.
I hope Bubic gets another start soon. That third inning was a spectacle. Now that he knows he can play at this level, the hope is he can start that way. If he does, Bubic will be fun to watch. Once he was controlling both sides of the plate with his pitches, the whiffs started to increase too. He’s got a great ability to disguise a filthy changeup. It’s fun to watch.