In 2013 Danny Duffy has again shown impressive stuff but has been held back by an inability to go deep in games. In Monday's game Duffy threw 91 pitches in only 3.2 innings.
Since the year 2000, there have been 287 pitcher seasons where the pitcher in one of his first three seasons maintained under a 4.0 ERA and pitched greater than 5 games (60% starts). Of those 287, Duffy in 2012 had the highest pitches per inning at 19.05. I was curious was sort of careers were had by players who struggled with pitch counts despite keeping runs off the board.
The average pitches per inning for the group was 17.03. Here are pitcher seasons with higher than 17.25 pitches/inning and how the pitchers have fared since:
|Name||Season||Age||Pitches per Inning||ERA||Games Started Since||WAR since||WAR per Year since|
Pitchers with extremely high pitches per inning (>17.75) did not tend to stick in the rotation, with the exception of Scott Olsen who has had plenty of starts despite his poor performance. For the optimists, there are some names that stand out above 17.5 pitches per inning, including Billingsly, Kazmir, Kershaw, and Garza. Unfortunately, among those only Garza's season came after his age 21 season, as he was 23 like Duffy in 2012.
All in all, I think these numbers show that Duffy's high pitch counts are a real indication that the Royals should be cautious when counting on him as the #2/3 starter they are hoping for. Since returning from injury in 2013, Duffy has continued to struggle with pitch counts, posting 19.8 pitches per inning in four starts. However, Duffy has only had nine starts in 2012/2013, so here's hoping more experience (not to mention the influence of Big Game James) will make a difference.
An interesting note, although I can't speak to Duffy's batting ability, two of the players in the >17.5 pitches/inning range were later converted to position players (Loewen and Ankiel).
Raw data c/o Baseball Reference.