Another start, another rough night for Danny Duffy.
Let’s start with the positive… Duffy is doing an exceptional job of changing speeds. On Wednesday, his four-seam fastball was averaging about 94 mph, his change was about 82 mph and his curve was clocked at 78 mph. From Brooks Baseball, here’s his velocity chart for the entire four innings he was in the game:
Unfortunately, from that chart, we can easily pick out a negative. While Duffy is able to keep his fastball in the mid 90s range, one thing he hasn’t been able to do is pace himself so he can maintain the velocity throughout his start. The dip in fastball speed becomes noticeable about 20 pitches into the game. Or in this case, at the end of the first inning. The big dip coincides with the start of the fourth inning. Basically, Duffy was gassed after three innings, which was just 58 pitches. And we know how the fourth inning unfolded… Single, four pitch walk and home run.
The Blue Jays are a good offensive team. They have two things that match-up well against all Royals pitchers: patience and power. One thing that jumps out about last night is that of the 96 pitches Duffy threw, only three times was he able to get a swing and a miss. That’s way, way too low for someone like Duffy, who is supposed to be a strikeout pitcher.
Of course, this leads into his struggle with command. Seriously, it’s not supposed to be this way. Through his first five starts, Duffy has a 1.06 SO/BB ratio. He’s struck out 18 batters and walked 17 (including four last night) in just 24 innings. That works out to a 6.7 SO/9 and a 6.3 BB/9. I don’t think anyone expected this. It’s truly disturbing. In Triple-A this year prior to his recall, Duffy had a 2.5 BB/9 and 10.8 SO/9. Obviously, you would expect those numbers to change just a bit as you progress and land in the majors, but the Duffy that has been struggling with command at the major league level has never… never had this kind of problem.
The question is, why? Why is he suddenly struggling with his command? Or nibbling as he puts it. Is he intimidated by big league hitters? Or has Bob McClure done something with his mechanics that has led him to lose his location? Somebody needs to figure this out.
Another issue with Duffy has been his delivery from the stretch. And since he’s walking a ton of hitters, he’s pitching from the stretch quite often. It started in his debut against the Rangers when he allowed 10 batters to reach first and four of them stole second. Including Mike Napoli. Overall, nine batters have attempted to steal against Duffy and eight of them have been successful. That’s not good. However, to Duffy’s credit, he’s improved his managing the running game. Sort of. Last night, he able to pick off two base runners and he also picked off a runner in his previous start. While those may be positives, runners are still taking advantage of his super slow delivery to home out of the stretch. Last night while I was watching the game, I found myself wondering why the Royals didn’t work with Duffy on a slide step in the low minors… You know, when there was time for him to get comfortable with it before he started facing major league batters.
Add it all together with the poor command and the trouble holding runners on base and it’s not difficult to understand why Duffy has been so underwhelming in his five starts.
We discussed the super-two possibilities when he was recalled and how easy it would be for the Royals to send him back to the minors if he struggled. With his numbers and performance, it would be easy for them to ship Duffy to Omaha for a couple of starts, which would then essentially buy the Royals an extra year of cost control. As simple as that sounds, we have to remember Vin Mazarro and Sean O’Sullivan are getting starts. So is Felipe Paulino and Nate Adcock. This is a paper thin pitching rotation.
Duffy will have to stick around a little bit longer. Bruce Chen and Kyle Davies both made rehab starts last night for Northwest Arkansas, so they are a week or so from rejoining the team. The right move when they are ready to be activated would be to replace Duffy. Yes, I’m advocating putting Davies in the rotation ahead of Duffy. That’s simply because one pitcher represents the future while the other represents… A void. The Royals need to make sure Duffy finds his command and finds his confidence. I’m not giving up on Duffy… Not in the least. But the best place for him to work on his issues is Omaha. And with the potential super-two issue, moving him to the farm is a win-win situation.