Jun 7, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Danny Duffy (41) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Third Time is not the Charm for Danny Duffy

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Since coming back to the majors this season, Danny Duffy has appeared to be a different pitcher. He has been more in command, not just with his pitching, but on the mound as well. Even when things are not going right on the mound, Duffy has not let his emotions get the best of him as he had in the past.

Duffy has even had his moments of pure dominance, such as his performance on June 2nd, when he allowed only one hit and one walk while striking out five over six innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. The dominance has extended through the first two times he has faced a lineup this season, as Duffy has given up a combined .163/.262/.293 batting line the first two times he has faced a lineup as a starter heading into last night’s action. However, when facing a lineup for the third time, Duffy becomes far more mortal, getting hit for a .320/.393/.520 batting line facing a lineup for the third time.

Danny Duffy’s early dominance and later struggles both continued last night against the New York Yankees. Though the first two times through the batting order, Duffy only allowed two hits and two walks, as he pitched five shutout innings. However, the third time through the lineup saw the Yankees get three hits and a walk, accounting for three runs, as Duffy recorded only two outs. Yes, there was a bit of bad luck as Lorenzo Cain‘s dive came up just short on Yangervis Solarte‘s sinking line drive that fell in for a two run single, yet Duffy has continued to struggle the third time through the lineup.

Perhaps the biggest issue with Duffy is that he has essentially been a two pitch pitcher, relying heavily on his fastball and curve. While he does occasionally throw a changeup, that pitch has been mainly for show to plant the thought in the hitter’s mind. In fact, the fastball and curve has accounted for almost 83% of the pitches that Duffy has thrown this year, according to Fangraphs.

While being a two pitch pitcher can be effective as a reliever, or even the first couple of times through a lineup, yet that effectiveness is likely to wane as a pitcher gets deeper into a game. Typically, a starting pitcher needs three pitches that he can throw at almost any time in order to be able to keep major league hitters off balance. With Duffy, batters go into the batter’s box that third time having seen what he has to offer. Without that third pitch being a threat, they can focus on looking for one pitch and doing damage that way.

Perhaps with time, Danny Duffy can develop his changeup to the point where he has more confidence with it. Instead of using it as a throw away pitch and to give the hitter something to think about, perhaps Duffy will be able to refine the change to the point where he can use it to attack. Having that pitch as a better option could be the final piece to the puzzle for Duffy.

For the most part, Danny Duffy has been quite good this season. Once he is able to figure out a way to handle a lineup deeper in the game, he could turn into that top of the rotation starter the Royals envisioned he would become.

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