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August 15, 2014

Painting the Black

Danny Duffy's Bestie

by R.J. Anderson


On July 21st, the Royals dropped to eight games below the Tigers, following a fourth consecutive loss. The negativity that so often envelopes Kansas City baseball returned. Fans checked prospect lists rather than the standings in preparation for the trade deadline, and some even rationalized that a fruitful haul would be preferable to a spot in the Wild Card game. That and other beliefs about this year's team have since been challenged, as the Royals have claimed first place after winning 17 of their past 21 games.

One of the catalysts for the turnaround is Danny Duffy, a 25-year-old southpaw who, in five starts after the All-Star break, has allowed eight runs. Neither his component measures nor his scouting reports suggest he's this good—if he qualified he would rank 12th among starters in ERA—but his efforts remains noteworthy for other reasons. Chief among them is the fact that he began the season in the minors. When Duffy was recalled, about two weeks into the campaign, he pitched from the bullpen. His first start came on May 3rd, and he's since tallied a 2.60 ERA, three more strikeouts than hits allowed, and roughly twice as many strikeouts as walks.

No story about Duffy's breakout is complete without mentioning James Shields. Shields, whose reputation as a leader-slash-teacher precedes him, has made an impression on Duffy. "He pulled me aside to look at some video the other day," Duffy said in March, "matter of fact, that actually really helped in the game. Just little things like that—anything that he sees, he wants everyone to be at their best. Good dude, he embraces the role as leader on this team."

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Related Content:  Kansas City Royals

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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Mike W
(830)

To me the thing is Duffy has stopped nibbling and started trusting his stuff. In the minors he didn't walk a lot of guys, but when he came up he had a lot of trouble with BBs. The major difference this year is that he stopped walking people.

Aug 15, 2014 09:03 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

Mike, you sound like James Shields.

You're correct though, he's throwing more strikes and seems to trust his pitches more. Consistency is still an issue at times—there was one recent start where he kept rolling curveballs to the plate for instance—but he looks like a capable big-league starter.

Aug 15, 2014 12:26 PM
 
sroney

"Duffy entered the season with nine career pickoffs in nearly 160 big-league innings. This season, he has nabbed four baserunners in 115 innings."

ummm, 9 in 160 is a higher pickoff rate than 4 in 115. (4 in 115 would be 8 in 230), so how is this an improvement?

Aug 15, 2014 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member R.J. Anderson
BP staff

I should have written the section better. Since I didn't, let me better explain why I think it's an upgrade:

1) The move itself is more deceptive—obvious benefits there;
2) There are fewer moving parts involved, again, the payoffs here are obvious—less room for error, etc.;
3) You're correct about the pickoff rate being worse, but that's not the only goal of a good pickoff move. There's also the matter of slicing into leads and keeping runners from attempting a steal. There's no good way to measure leads—at least not yet—but if you look at steal attempts per opportunity*, his rate went from 9.7 before this season to 3.2 percent thus far this year.

You could probably credit Salvador Perez's increasing reputation for a little of that, but I think it's fair to buy into the idea that his new move has helped him in ways beyond the pickoff numbers.

*Using B-Ref's numbers, viewable here.

Anyway, sorry about that. Hopefully that makes more sense than the section's explanation did.

Aug 15, 2014 12:24 PM
 
R.A.Wagman

It does. I had the same thought reading this. Would have been better to use the steals/opportunity metric instead,a s that is truly impressive.

Aug 15, 2014 12:26 PM
rating: 0
 
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Premium Article What Scouts Are Saying... (08/15)
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Painting the Black: Se... (08/08)
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