Ned Yost confirmed today that starting pitcher Danny Duffy will be shut down for the year after exiting Tuesday’s game against the Indians in the first inning with discomfort. Duffy was diagnosed with left shoulder impingement, and it didn’t make sense to continue to treat the injury to keep him on the mound this season.
Ned confirmed that Danny Duffy is done for the season. Duffy can’t have another anti-inflammatory shot this soon so makes sense to shut him down. Ned also said he may stick with 6-man rotation and give either Skoglund or Sparkman some starts.— Jeffrey Flanagan (@FlannyMLB) September 5, 2018
It has been a tough season for Duffy, who is in the second year of a five year, $65 million deal. His velocity has been up and down all season, and his early struggles suggested perhaps he wasn’t fully healthy back then. But Duffy battled through and made adjustments, and had a stretch of ten starts this summer from June 9 to July 31 where he posted a 3.03 ERA, giving up no runs in five innings or more in half of those starts.
But the injuries and inconsistency that has plagued much of his career continued to hit Duffy this season. Duffy has never made as many as 30 starts in a season, and has qualified for the ERA title just once in his career - in 2016, when he spent some time as a reliever. Duffy, who had Tommy John surgery in 2012, has been placed on the disabled list three times in the past two seasons prior to this injury. He also had surgery last off-season to remove loose bodies from his elbow.
Ned Yost may bear some scrutiny for the way he handled his ace. Duffy has thrown 110+ pitches in a game just 13 times in his career - five of them came this year, a year in which the Royals were never in contention. High pitch counts on their face are certainly not conclusive evidence of overwork - the number of high-stress pitches has been found to be a more conclusive contributor to pitcher injuries. But knowing that Duffy frequently works high-stress innings with his approach brings questions on whether Duffy should have pitched that deep into games.
Duffy still shows flashes of being a front-line starter, such as his June 3 performance against Oakland, when he tossed seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and striking out ten. But those performances were too few and far between this year. He ends the season with a 4.88 ERA and 4.69 FIP, both the highest marks of his career since his rookie season. His walk rate spiked from 6.7% in 2017 to 10.1% this year, while his strikeout rate fell slightly. He posted his lowest swinging strike rate since 2015. His fastball velocity was the same as it was last year, but still noticeably down from 2016.
The injuries and underwhelming numbers almost certainly mean the Royals won’t be able to trade Duffy this off-season, if they ever really wanted to. Hopefully Duffy can come back and live up to the potential he showed in 2016 and 2017. He is an easy guy to root for, a man that wears his emotions on his sleeve and is certainly taking any disappointments in his performance harder than you can probably imagine. We’re rootin’ for you Duffman, come back ready for 2019.