The Duke of the Ducks Returns to His Early Season Form
Danny Madden | On 12, Aug 2014
The Akron RubberDucks are in a chase for the post season, and with a drastically different lineup from Opening Day, they’re doing what they can to keep on pushing towards the playoffs. A big reason why they’ve been able to stay in contention this entire season is due to some quality starting pitching. Joseph Colon and Will Roberts have been a huge key to this team’s success, but they’re not the only two that have been pitching well this season. Duke von Schamann has been playing a major role in this rotation and has really shown in it all season long. Monday, von Schamann was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.
Von Schamann, 23, was acquired from the Dodgers at the start of this season in exchange for Colt Hynes. He was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the fifteenth round of the 2012 MLB First Year Players Draft out of Texas Tech University. Von Schamann made one start with the Dodgers Double-A Chattanooga team before coming over to the Indians system. He spent some time with Triple-A Columbus, but that was only limited to two starts before he was optioned to Double-A Akron.
Since his arrival in Akron, he’s posted a 3.76 ERA while going 7-6 in 119.2 innings. In the first two months that Von Schamann spent with the team, he pitched pretty well. In 45.1 innings of work, he posted a 2.84 ERA while going 2-0. The wheels started to fall off in June and July as he scuffled through both of those months. With Cody Anderson also struggling at this time, the RubberDucks needed von Schamann to get back to pitching consistently well. In this two month time span, von Schamann posted a 4.52 ERA and went 3-6 in that time in 60.1 innings pitched.
Once the All Star break hit, von Schamann seemed to finally start to turn it around. After his past start on August 10, he’s now gone five consecutive starts where he’s given up three or less runs. This has been a huge boost for the RubberDucks as they’ve lost three of their main offensive producers, and they could use some consistent quality pitching from their starters.
As a pitcher, von Schamann is not a guy that tends to strike out a whole lot of batters. So far on the season, von Schamann has a K/9 rate of 4.9% and has about a 13% strike out rate. The key for von Schamann is locating his pitches, which is why he can be so hit or miss sometimes. His fastball tops out at about 93 mph, and he tends to throw a ton of breaking balls to induce ground balls. This was something hat manager Dave Wallace has really praised von Schamann, especially during his recent surge of quality starts.
“Locating and keeping the ball down. It’s nothing that we haven’t heard before or real secret,” Wallace said. “That’s what he did. I think he’s getting back to doing the things he was doing at the beginning of the year. He got away from that a little bit in the middle of the season, but he’s getting back to it. Finishing strong right now.”
During the middle of the season when von Schamann was struggling, he needed to take some time and figure out what was going on that was causing him to get hit so hard.
“I’ve made some mechanical adjustments. Just trying to be smoother and really feel comfortable with my windup and stretch. Also, just concentrating on getting ahead of the hitters,” von Schamann said. “Pounding the strikezone and keeping it low, and letting my infielders and outfielders do what they do.”
What’s been helpful to not only von Schamann, but also to Anderson, Colon and Roberts is that they all try to help each other out in between starts. Von Schamann credits a lot of his success to his teammates.
“We throw a bullpen in between our starts. A lot of times you’ve got one or maybe all of the starters out there watching or helping and stuff,” von Schamann said. “[Jeff Harris] does a great job with our bullpens. If he sees something he lets us know, he’s a great pitching coach. Like they say, you learn a lot from your teammates as well. We’re always talking about grips, hitters, different teams, and what our strategies are. So yeah, I really learn a lot from my teammates.”
Not only does von Schamann have great teammates in the rotation, but he also has guys that he can trust behind him in the field. For a groundball pitcher, you have to be able to trust your infield behind you. If you’re trying to pitch to contact, then you have trust that your teammates will be able to make the plays to get the runner out, or else you’re going to try too hard to strike each batter out and eventually get knocked around. With players like Erik Gonzalez, Ronny Rodriguez, Justin Toole and Bryan LaHair manning the infield, they definitely see a lot of action defensively when von Schamann is pitching, but he knows that they’re there to back him up.
“I’ve never really been a guy that will strike out like ten guys a game. What I try to do is get ahead, make them take defensive swings,” von Schamann said. “I’m very confident in our infielders, we’ve got great guys. Outfield as well. What I try to do is get ground balls, and our infielders are great.”
Von Schamann’s pitching repertoire is similar to pretty much any sinkerball pitcher, but especially resembles Justin Masterson. He lives on the slider and changeup, and can really get batters to hit the ball into the dirt. That’s been key for von Schamann in his recent success.
As the RubberDucks make they’re push for the playoffs, they’ll be relying on von Schamann to keep up his end of the rotation. He’ll need to make sure he’s keeping the ball low, and location his pitches, but most notably his off speed pitches.
The Duke of the Ducks is here, and he’s ready to help lead this team to the post season.
Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer