Aug 7, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Determining Danny Duffy's Role


Aug 16, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Danny Duffy (41) sits in dugout during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Duffy has been a bit of an enigma during his time with the Kansas City Royals. He had struggled during his first major league season in 2011, and appeared to be making progress in 2012 before being shut down after six starts due to a torn ligament and Tommy John surgery. He appeared to come back better than he had been before during his brief run in 2013, posting a 1.85 ERA and a 1.356 WHiP in his five starts. The Royals were understandably cautious with Duffy during his return, as he pitched into the seventh only once. However, despite that caution, Duffy still missed the end of the season due to a strained elbow.

Now, over a year removed from that surgery, the Royals have taken the reins off of Danny Duffy. The early returns from his time in camp appear to be promising. According to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star, Duffy is not only in the best shape he has been in since being drafted, but his pitches look much sharper. He has displayed command of his fastball, and his curve has been sharp, breaking hard instead of floating downward.

Right now, according to pitching coach Dave Eiland, the plan is for Duffy to pitch between 150 to 175 innings this season. Even at the high end of that projection, if Duffy is able to pitch six innings each time out, that would leave him with 29 starts, necessitating that he would either need to have his season end early, or start later.

The best option for Danny Duffy may be to start him in the bullpen. While the Royals will need to utilize their fifth starter early in the season, that spot may be held down by either Yordano Ventura, Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar. While Davis and Hochevar may not be the best choices for the rotation, they would likely need to hold a spot down for a month or so. Meanwhile, Duffy could have his inning count managed while still providing a role in long relief. Once May rolls around, Duffy could then be inserted into the rotation, replacing either Davis or Hochevar. Should Ventura win the fifth starter spot and be preforming well in the first month, then perhaps Duffy could replace Bruce Chen, moving Chen back to the spot starter/long reliever role that he thrived in last season.

Duffy had been expected to be one of the young starters that would help to lead the Royals rotation going forward. Based on the early indications, Duffy may be ready to fulfill that promise. Yet, with the expected innings limit, it will be interesting to see what role the Royals slot Duffy in to start the season. If he is in the bullpen, then Duffy could be the second lefty, teaming up with Tim Collins. If he starts the season in the rotation, then his innings may be managed early on, as Duffy may find himself on a pitch count through the first month to month and a half of the season.

After two seasons plagued by injuries, most of the restrictions have been removed from Danny Duffy. Now, the Royals may be able to find out exactly what they have in him.

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  • jimfetterolf

    As Ventura will also be on about a 180 inning limit, possible is both start at Omaha, then Duffy up in May, Ventura whenever service clock allows. I still like Hochevar for the rotation as a chance to enhance trade value and wouldn’t mind Davis either. Plenty of depth.

    • kibo

      Great idea since they both did so well with the multiple opportunities they had in the past. Let’s move on.

      • jimfetterolf

        Both have some ceiling, decent peripherals, and hot stuff, so they’ll get a look, as neither pros nor SABR nerds pay much attention to ERA. Hoch fixed his major problem, men on base, and Davis’ is fixable, so we shall indeed move on based on what they show in ST.

        • Tyler_KC_Fan

          I still have a had time believing after one year in the bullpen Hoch is “fixed”. If it was that easy to “fix” him then why did they wait till now to do this. I think he did amazing from the bullpen, but to lable him as “fixed” because he did well pitching 1 or 2 innings is a little bit of a stretch. Hoch usually does well against batters the first time he faces them, his problem is facing them the second time and third time through the line up.

          • jimfetterolf

            Luke’s big problem was blowing up with runners on. He fixed that last year and it should be repeatable, as it came down to pitch selection, not overthrowing, and mechanics from the stretch.

            As for times through the order, baseball reference has stats on that under “splits”.

            As for the timing of the fix, “they” weren’t the problem, Luke was. Being a 1:1 pick with electric stuff may have made him a little stubborn. After enough years of failure got him labelled a bust, he started listening to the coaches.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Looking at those stats doesn’t make him look any better. You can’t look at last year as the all being factor. If you just look one year at a time then you would see Santana with a 5 year $60M contract or something like that because he did great last year. Hoch had his best year of his career last year and he was coming from the BP. Not starting.

            Everyone knocks Santana down so fast even after having a career year, why? Because he’s inconsistent. He’s good one year, then off the next, and then he’s good again, but off the next. So, why is it after one year of Hoch being in the BP, with 70.1 IP, we are thinking Hoch is fixed? He’s had 6 mediocre, and below average at best year as a starter and 1 amazing year in the BP. If Hoch is fixed, then Santana should be a superstar and an ace for any team. Hoch’s numbers throughout his career have been terrible and nothing anyone would associate with a #1 overall pick. Hoch is a bust…as a starter. If he was to stay in the BP this year and do something similar to last year, then he has found a new calling and a new home in the BP and maybe become a superstar. But not as a starter.

            In my opinion, if the Royals start him he will most likely self-destructs again like he did as a starter for 6 years and his trade value will turns to crap. If we leave him in the BP then his value will more than likely continue to increases. If we trade Hoch and he has a good couple years as a starter for another team, then that’s great for him. But I don’t see him as a starter and his stats don’t show him as a starter. I think he would make an amazing BP arm, but that’s about it.

            The thing that kills me the most, is we are so quick to give up on Duffy and some other pitcher as a starter right now and see them starting in the BP and probably leaving him there even though they have shown huge signs of success and abilities, yet after 7 years we are continuing to believe that Hoch is a starter, even after he has proven he isn’t.

          • jimfetterolf

            In 2012, Luke’s worst innings were the 7th, .958 OPS, the 1st inning, .909, and the 4th, .840. Doesn’t seem to relate to times through the line up, if it did Luke would have been a disaster last year. Something changed.

            As for Duffy, Hochevar isn’t part of that equation, it will all depend on what Duffy shows this spring and the Royals’ plans for how many innings he throws and whether they want to start him late or shut him down early. As they are in playoff mode, a late start to have him available for September and October might be best, bring him up in May after a few short starts at Omaha to keep loose.

            As for Santana, consensus is he did well in a huge park with a great defense and is asking too much money and years for his age and projections, which is why he’s unsigned. Luke’s already here and can go back to the ‘pen after a couple of starts and it’s his walk year, plus he’s cheap enough to be DFA’ed, as is Chen.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            He was able to put more speed on his fastball and that helped with his changeup and slider. If you look at fangraph, every one of his pitches are faster. He was able to put more movement on his pitches as well. This isn’t because he all of a sudden became a better pitcher or because he fixed something, it’s because he was able to go 2 innings and only pitch, at most, 30 pitches in a game. His fastball went from 96 to 98 mph. His changeup was at 86 mph. Not having to pace himsef throughout the game he was able to put all his effort into a few pitches he had to throw.

            My point I’m making about Duffy, is the team wins when he starts. They have lost 2 games the last 11 starts. 9-2 seems pretty legit to me. Now, he may have had a couple games where he went 3 innings, but so has Hoch and Davis. But Duffy didn’t give up the game while he was pitching. He rearly gives up 4 runs in any game. If we haven’t given up on Hoch after his mediocre 6 years as a starter, then why do we doubt Duffy?

            In my opinion, Duffy is a better starter than Hoch and Davis. If we start the year with something other than Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen and Duffy…that would be a poor choice by Yost and Moore and I would love to hear them try and convence fans to buy into either Hoch or Davis being the best option instead of Duffy and even Ventura. Fans have watched Hoch struggle to long to believe he’s a starter. Davis struggle all first half and was replaced before the ASB, so why should we believe this year is any different? Duffy deserves it. Give Duffy the starting spot.

          • jimfetterolf

            Hoch threw 98 as a starter in college. Royals changed his training after drafting him, so that may be a factor, but really, in the majors an extra 2mph isn’t a real game changer, as it’s still all about location and deception. Some suggestion he resumed his old long toss training before ’13. He said during the season he could hit a hundred if he wanted to. There’s a reason he was drafted 1:1. With a return to the training that made him that he may have returned to the ceiling. Verlander averaged 93.3mph last year, Scherzer 93.3, Luke in ’12 92.6. Don’t think a couple of mph was the problem.

            I like Duffy fine, all else being equal he’ld be my #2 this year. But, he’ll be on an innings limit, around 175-180, as will Ventura, so the decision to be made is do you limit him early, put him in Omaha for a couple of short starts to keep loose, then bring him up in May, or do you start him in KC and shut him down during September. I also wouldn’t start the year with Chen in the rotation, I’ld use him as swing man. We already have two crafty throwers, so I would rather have a third hot arm, but just my preference.

            Ventura also has service time considerations that enter into his call-up. For a front line starter do you throw away an extra year? Not sure that I would. Of course, I’ld be looking at extending Duffy and Ventura sometime this year and avoid those issues later.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            Which I knew the Ventura issues in the contract, which is why I’m fine with Ventura starting in Omaha this year. But starting Hoch and Davis and waiting a month to bring Duffy up could be the difference in making the playoffs and missing the playoffs. If the Royals wouldn’t have had their horrible May, they would have made the playoffs. So spending April playing with pitchers that we are just using till May could cost us a chance to make the playoffs. Are you willing to miss the playoffs just to keep the innings down on Chen and Duffy?

          • jimfetterolf

            The basic idea would be that effectively three or even four, with Dwyer, pitchers are competing for the last spot or two with the losers going to the ‘pen. The winner gets a real short leash, we won’t see 15 games of Mendoza or 25 of Davis simply because we do have the depth. Management knows what they want to see from Hoch and Davis and it will be easy to spot if they slip into bad habits. Both have stuff, both had mechanical issues. If they get 2-2 from the last guy, that gets them through April and Duffy can come up and be available through the play offs.

            On Ventura, calling him up in June avoids Super Two and keeps him low enough on innings to pitch in the play offs.

            As for the horrible May, Royals were 3-3 in Davis’ starts. They were 0-5 in Santana’s five starts. They were 0-5 in Shields’ starts. 2-4 for Mendoza. Guthrie was 3-3.

          • Tyler_KC_Fan

            We all know that Yost doesn’t sway his decisions that fast. If he sees someone he likes he will play them until they are chopped liver.

            If you have proven you can pitch from the BP, why would you be considering to move him to the starting rotation? Very few pitchers have success in the BP and make the transition to being a starter and have success. Hoch and Davis aren’t the exception to that.

            Davis went 3-3 and the Royals scored 2, 2, 7, 9, 6 and 6. Davis gave up 6, 3, 3, 4, 7 and 1. Davis gave up 24 runs and got a lot of help on offense with 32 runs. 32.2 IP in 6 games, aroundd 5 innings per game.
            Shields lost every game but the Royals scored 3, 1, 1, 2 and 1. Shields gave up 6, 2, 2, 3 and 0. Shields gave up 12 runs and got zero help on offense with 8 runs. 37 IP in 5 games, nearly 8 innings per game.
            Santana lost every game as well but the Royals scored 1, 4, 1, 2 and 3. Santana gave up 4, 5, 2 ,4 and 3. Santana gave up 18 runs and got zero help on offense with 11 runs. 34.1 IP in 5 games, nearly 7-8 innings per game.
            Mendoza went 2-4. Royals scored 3, 2, 3, 11, 5 and 9. Mendoza gave up 1, 1, 2, 3, 3 and 6. Mendoza gave up 16 runs and got some help with 33 runs. 32.2 IP in 6 games, nearly 5-6 innings per game.
            Guthrie went 3-3. Royals scored 4, 0, 5, 2, 6 and 2. Guthrie gave up 2, 6, 6, 5, 1 and 0. Guthre gave up 20 runs and got little help with 19 runs. 40.1 IP in 6 games, nearly 7-8 innings per game.

            Besides the lack of offense, Mendoza and Davis had the most luck in May and did the worst. Mendoza is gone, in Japan. Davis is still with the team and got moved to the BP, which he had more success there.

            My point, we can’t always ignore numbers. When the numbers are screaming in our face telling us something, it’s time to start listening. Davis and Hoch haven’t proven themselves as starters, but they have proven themselves as bullpen arms. It doesn’t make sense to constantly beat a dead horse, and leaving quality arms that can be starting; i.e. Duffy, in the minors.

            Duffy may have a limit in innings, but if we leave him in the minors for a month and have another May and come up a few games short, everyone will be talking about that month and what it could have been if Hoch/Davis wasn’t pitching. We have our best opportunity to make the playoffs this year, but it isn’t guaranteed that we will make the playoffs. Taking that risk, to me, isn’t worth it.

          • jimfetterolf

            The point of the results from last May was that having Duffy in the rotation wouldn’t have saved the Royals, last May was a result of an offensive outage. We are hoping we don’t see that again.

            As for screaming numbers, that would be ERA pretty much alone, as the peripherals on Hochevar show a different pitcher. Davis’ siera and fips last year, along with BABIP, showed a much improved pitcher over his Tampa starts. And we know that his issues were mechanical, so that’s among the easiest of fixes.

            Ultimately, like with Eric Hosmer, it gets down to fixing a player. If Hosmer reverts to ’12 that will be much more damaging to the team than if Hochevar reverts simply because Royals have pitching depth. We all are hoping Alex can fix last year’s second half. We hope Escobar can fix ’13. We hope Moose can fix his career. Those, along with Getz and Frenchy, were why we didn’t make the playoffs last year and those players will have much more to say about whether the Royals make the playoffs than this year, with Luke in the rotation or without.

            As for Duffy in the minors to start, I gave the reasons, which also apply to Ventura.

            Good thread, I enjoy discussing stuff with you. Have a great week :)

          • cardsfanatik

            I think if you ask a lot of experts, you will find that the difference between 93.3 to 92.6 on the “average” is a lot bigger than you are giving it credit for. And Tyler is right in his argument. Hochevar is NOT a starter, and hasn’t earned the spot over Duffy imo. Luke sucks in the rotation, leave him in the BP, better yet, trade him. We don’t need a 5 million dollar middle reliever, Coleman can do what Hochevar does, a lot cheaper. Give it up with Hochevar, your not going to convince any of us to like him. He has had his chances, and he has “fixed” nothing. He could come out last year and just let it all hang out, which in turn makes his off speed stuff nastier, that won’t happen if he goes back to starting.

          • jimfetterolf

            Neither I nor the FO cares if anyone likes Hoch, just pointing out that they are looking at the possibilities, based on all the considerations. And no one has earned the slot yet. That’s what ST is for. What we do know is that Hoch and Davis will get a long look as starters in ST. And given the innings limits for Duffy and Ventura I won’t be surprised if one or both make the rotation with Chen in the ‘pen.

          • cardsfanatik

            If Davis or Hochevar start in the rotation this year, I’m watching a different team

          • jimfetterolf

            That’s fair.

  • Tyler_KC_Fan

    If Duffy starts in the BP and stays in the BP while Hoch and Davis get the starting spot then we might as well pack up and end the year. The only real dig people have on Duffy is his ability to go deep into games. He averages 6 innings a game. The point of a bullpen is to get to the 9th inning for the closer. What’s the point in having the #1 BP in the league if you only want to use them 1, maybe 2 innings. I’m totally fine with Duffy being limited this year. 180 innings is still close to a full year if not a full year. But wasting innings coming for the BP is absolutely absurd. Coming back from injury he was limited to 5 innings per outing. We won all 5 games he started. I’m a bigger fan of having Duffy start than Hoch or Davis. I know that Duffy may not have the greatest outings or go far into the games, but he never gave up more than 3 runs in any of his games, and he gave up 3 once, 2 once and 1 the other three games.

    I said it once and jimfetterolf disagreed, but don’t fix what isn’t broken. If Hoch succeeded in the BP, leave him there. If Davis does better in the BP then he does starting, leave him in the BP. If you really think Davis is a starter, look at his stats as a starter. Yeah, he would go 5-6 innings, maybe even 7 innings. But he gave up nearly double digit hits every game, mmore than 3 earned runs every game and the Royals would have to score 5+ runs a game to win.

    The rotation should be:
    Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen and Duffy. If we start with Shields, Vargas, Guthrie, Chen and Hoch/Davis then we are wasting Duffy and might as well trade Duffy instead of wasting his career in the minors and bringing him up, watching him succeed and then putting him somewhere else for another pitcher.