Written by: Carlos Marcano (@camarcano)
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Here’s the thing: Danny Duffy was supposed to be the ace the Royals needed to build their pitching staff around; during his ten years with the organization, he has shown stretches of performances that made it look like he would deliver on that promise.
The highest point in his career, so far, was during the 2016 and 2017 seasons when he was able to do things like setting the Royals’ single-game record for strikeouts, with 16:
It looked like the southpaw was on track to achieve greater things, but then the baseball gods had other things in mind: Duffy had control and injury issues that prevented him from improving his performance. Because of these ailments, he has not been able to pitch a full qualified season since 2016 (his only).
Duffy used to reach 95-ish mph with his fastball early in his pitching career (2016 and before), but the left-hander has seen a decline in his velocity and is sitting closer to 92 mph these days. Despite those 16 strikeouts in one game in 2016, he’s never been an out-of-this-world strikeout guy; his career K% and BB% are pretty average, 20.9% and 8.6% respectively, giving him a regular-to-mediocre 12.3% K%-BB%. His all-time K/9 is a less-than-impressive 7.98, too.
So, what is there to like about Duffy, now?
The start of the season has brought us a somehow improved version of Duffy, an enhanced 2016 version.
On one hand, he is striking out a lot more people this season, almost 30% more batters per 9 innings than his career average for a K/9 of 10.29. The southpaw’s K% of 27.9% which is on par or better than that of Lance Lynn, Brandon Woodruff, Dylan Bundy and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
But that’s not the only improvement Duffy is showing, he is also walking batters near the lowest level of his career, for a 6.9% BB%, close to his prime 2016-2017 numbers; all of this is leading to a career-best 20.8% K%-BB%, good to be number 18 among all the qualified SPs.
This is what 2020 important numbers look for Duffy:
Now, how does this translate into his performance?
Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, twin-like baseball crushers, took Duffy out of the park, 08/28.
That was rough. But even when it was not the best start for him, he was still able of doing this:
Great location and a good mix of his pitching material.
In five of his appearances, he’s pitched at least 5 innings. He has also allowed 2 or less earned runs in four games, including three where he only permitted one ER. His only two starts that can be singled out as bad were: a 5 IP game against Detroit and his first 4 IP effort against Minnesota, allowing 4 ER in each of them; those are the games that are bloating his ERA and were not that disastrous, to be honest.
These numbers from Duffy are very useful; his K% should be underratedly useful for the season, and there is still time for his BB% to go down as he has not yet reached the point of stabilization for that metric. Along those lines, he has not issued more than two walks in any of his last 4 starts.
What can we expect from Duffy for the rest of the season? Let’s look at some key indicators:
CSW, (K-BB)/ip, Zone%, and F-Strike% are the most important indicators on the isolated ability a pitcher has: take batters out before reaching base by the way of striking them out or, at worst, letting them reach base via a walk.
While these figures might not look impressive, they are clearly above average and are good for a top-35 starting pitcher standing according to Kwindex; that’s as good as other pitchers like Zack Greinke, Pablo López and Andrew Heaney. If Duffy’s BB% continues to trend in the correct direction, he’ll likely reach top-30 status before the end of the season.
A 3.50 ERA is on the horizon with a strong number of strikeouts too, though he plays for a bad team and hasn’t worked overly deep into games at a high rate. Wins and quality starts will likely continue to be hard to come by.
Duffy is available in 75% of the Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball public leagues and was included in our Ray Butler’s high-value list of starting pitchers leading up to the 2020 sprint season.
Follow P365 MLB Analyst Carlos Marcano on Twitter! @camarcano
Follow us on Twitter! @Prospects365
Featured image courtesy of photographer Charlie Riedel and the Associated Press