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2016 Season Preview: Danny Duffy

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Will Duffy rise to the occasion? Furrrr sure.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Duffy has been enigmatic in his time with the Royals, and last season represents just the latest part of that enigma. After a career-best 1.9 fWAR season in 2014 with a 2.53 ERA, Duffy was poised to take his career to the next level and become the solid starter the Royals had long envisioned in him. Instead, Duffy tantalized Royals fans with potential, but could never be consistent enough to be a solid fixture in the rotation.

On April 30 against the Tigers Duffy tossed seven innings of one run ball.  Following that gem was three consecutive clunkers, combining for 9 2/3 innings and 14 earned runs where he allowed 25 batters to reach base.  Flashes of brilliance, proceeded by several disturbingly erratic starts sums up Duffy’s 2015 season.

Duffy has annually outpitched his peripherals, posting a 3.83 FIP compared to his shiny 2.53 ERA in 2014.   Regression was bound  to rear its ugly head at some point, and Duffy's .238 BABIP in 2014 rose to .298 last year. Can the 27-year old southpaw still be considered a fixture in the rotation moving forward?

2015 season 4.08 4.43 136.2 6.7 3.5 1.2
2016 PECOTA projection 4.18 4.67 131.1 7.1 3.4 0.6
2016 Steamer projection 3.52 4.10 117.0 7.6 3.1 0.8
2016 ZIPS projection 3.82 4.16 125.0 7.2 3.4 1.2

Duffy struggles immensely with repeating his mechanics.  It becomes a much easier talk for the opposition to predict what’s coming when his entire repertoire’s release points fluctuate wildly. His vertical movement on his breaking ball is also concerning with much less bite from years past.

Even his horizontal movement is spiraling the wrong direction, which Is the key component to getting whiffs.

Duffy had a stretch in June where he was pitching much better after coming back from his biceps tendinitis.  Maintaining his mechanics, pitching much deeper into games.  His results remained solid into July and August but his strikeout-to-walk ratio was plummeting.  He gradually reverted back to his old laboring ways, unable to pitch deep into games Duffy and was eventually demoted to the bullpen.

The Royals needed a left-hander in the pen, and with the unlikelihood of him breaking the playoff rotation, it made some sense to get his sea legs under him in the pen.  Duffy flourished in the pen, to the tune of a 2.52 ERA and 21 punch outs in 14 1/3 innings, which includes the postseason. Not only was Duffy’s velocity on his four-seamer up a couple ticks, pumping 95-96 regularly, he was also getting more rise on it.  "Rise" balls lead to plenty of weak fly balls, as playoff hero Chris Young would attest to.

















The league average movement is in the 9.0-9.5 range, so a getting a few more inches of rise in combination to his velocity uptick was the key to his domination in short bursts.

Duffy would seem to profile best in the pen long-term with the durability and consistency cloud hovering over him, but with a deep star studded pen and a lack of high upside starters, they want to give him every opportunity to seize a rotation spot. Duffy also provides the only left-handed option for the rotation until Mike Minor is ready to return now that the team has traded away Brandon FinneganSean Manaea, and Cody Reed. With just two years left until free agency, Duffy stands at a crossroads in his career, and his 2016 season will prove to be big not just for him, but for the Royals as well.