Evaluating Danny Duffy's First Three Starts

Lost amidst the Soria drama and the general angst surrounding the team's slide into oblivion has been the opening of Danny Duffy's career. Although not as ballyhooed as Eric Hosmer's Hosmas, Danny Duffy's presence in the rotation is a landmark occasion in the long-term transformation of this team. The starting rotation is the current roster's greatest weakness, and the pitching depth of the minor league system is a key plank in any path towards contention in coming years. While the rookie infusion into the bullpen has been fun, the impact will be much greater if the Royals can turn a weakness into a strength.

Unlike Hosmer, Duffy has inspired immediate surety that he is, as they say, "ready." That may be over-rating Hosmer a little and under-rating Duffy, but that's the nature of these things. No one, from the fans through the blogs through the media through the front office is evaluating these guys 100% objectively. That's the price of admission for dealing with your fellow man. Make no mistake, Duffy has struggled. Here are his macro numbers: 4.11 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 4.15 xFIP.

In so many ways, I'm still living in the early 2000s, and that includes my reaction to baseball stats. Run-scoring is down however, and a 4.11 ERA isn't what it used to be. It's almost exactly league average Although Duffy has been able to miss bats, posting a 8.29 K/9, he's also walked too many hitters, with a 5.87 BB/9 number. His BABIP is mostly typical, at .293.

IP Ks/BBs Rs
5/18 4.0 4/6 2
5/24 5.1 6/3 2
5/29 6.0 4/1 3

 

You can see above how much that rough first start is still coloring his numbers. (As well it should given he's only made three starts.) Walks have become progressively less of an issue as Duffy's made additional starts, and he's also working deeper into games.

Anecdotally, it feels like hot shot pitching prospects are given to the dramatic, incredibly awesome career-debut start, followed by a bit of a step back, as the get their sea legs (a phrase Bill Simmons has drilled into America's heads this year). Duffy's virgin month didn't play out like that, but that doesn't mean his future still can't be bright.

What's true for Duffy is true for all young pitchers: we just don't know. His minor league stats are impressive, but they're also a traveling salesman's souvenir kit. Between being a) good b) aggressively promoted and c) taking a baseball sabbatical last spring, he's never been in one place for very long. It'll be very interesting to see how the dance between Duffy and Major League Hitters develops over the next few years.

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