Five years ago, Danny Duffy walked away from the game of baseball. Although the reasons are still a bit mysterious, he eventually returned and was motivated enough to endure Tommy John surgery and bounce back as one of the Royals shining stars in 2014. Duffy had shown flashes of brilliance in parts of three seasons with the Royals, but lacked consistency and health. That all changed in 2014 when he was able to put it all together for a full season.
Duffy would have finished fifth in the league in ERA had he qualified with the minimum number of innings. Unfortunately, Duffy suffered a ribcage injury in September, causing him to pitch just eight innings that month, and pitch out of the pen in the post-season. Duffy's low ERA came despite a significant decline in strikeout rate from 8.1 per nine innings to 6.8. That drop was coupled with a major drop in walks however, from 5.2 per nine innings in 2013, to just 3.2 last season.
The drop in strikeouts didn't come from a lack of velocity. Duffy's fastball still averages 93, and he was the second-hardest-throwing starting southpaw in baseball last year, after David Price. Duffy took advantage of spacious Kauffman Stadium and the best defensive outfield in baseball, with a flyball rate of 46%. Hitters hit just .185/.294/.263 against Duffy with a rate of 6.5 strikeouts per nine innings at Kauffman Stadium, compared to a line of .227/.275/.366 with 7.0 strikeouts per nine against Duffy in other ballparks. Duffy was extremely tough on lefties last year, with opposing hitters hitting just .137/.225/.161 against him.
|Career per 162 games||3.71||4.19||7.3||4.0||2.0|
The projections expect Duffy to regress in 2015, largely due to a BABIP of .239, the third-lowest in baseball among pitchers with at least 100 innings. Despite his terrific defense, that extremely low BABIP is not likely to be sustainable. However, Duffy has been able to induce a high-number of pop-ups due to a rising fastball and there is reason to think he was both lucky and unlucky last season. Now that he's healthy, Duffy will also have to work on extending himself to work deeper into games - he has never gone longer than seven innings in a start in his career.
What do you expect out of Danny Duffy in 2015?