KC Royals pitcher Danny Duffy has been slated to the bullpen by most pundits and fans. Not so fast. It’s too soon to give up on the 27-year-old lefty as a starting pitcher.
To many, the decision is easy. Duffy’s splits last season as a starter and reliever tell a compelling picture. As a starter, Duffy put up a mediocre 7-8. 4.35 ERA in 128.1 innings with a mere 6.3 K/9. In six games as a reliever, Duffy dominated with a 0.00 ERA in 8.1 innings along with 12 strikeouts.
That’s all the evidence necessary for such individuals to conclude that Danny Duffy is Luke Hochevar: a guy that can excel in short stints as a reliever while scuffling as a starter.
Not so fast.
The Kansas City Royals gave Luke Hochevar five years before giving up on him as a rotation piece. Danny Duffy has only parts of seasons in the KC Royals rotation after coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2012.
The other reason that the Kansas City Royals should not give up on Duffy as a starter quite yet is that he’s enjoyed significant success last season in the rotation. Duffy posted a 9-12, 2.53 ERA season in 149.1 innings for the KC Royals in 2014.
While Danny Duffy’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) of 3.83 in 2014 suggests he benefited from both outstanding defense and some sequencing luck, he still showed that he could succeed in the rotation over 25 starts. Even if Duffy is a 3.83 ERA guy in the rotation, that’s still a league average pitcher.
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Add in Duffy’s relatively young age (27), and the fact that he’s a lefty that throws a 94 mph four seam fastball and a 93 mph sinker, and it’s pretty obvious that Duffy has the stuff to thrive in the rotation.
The problem with Duffy has always been his command. Duffy struggles to pitch deep into games due to a high pitch count in the middle innings. Yet, the Kansas City Royals are the best team in baseball for a guy that can’t last past the fifth or sixth inning. KC Royals manager Ned Yost is prone to bring in his big three relievers when holding a lead after six innings even if the starter is going strong.
Most of the pundits that believe Danny Duffy is destined for the pen in 2016 assume Chris Young will take the no. 5 spot in the rotation. However, Young tends to wear down after about two months of taking the ball every fifth day. Young is best used as a long reliever/spot starter until an emergency arises in which he can take a rotation spot for a short period of time.
I think the KC Royals would be better served to open the season with Duffy in the rotation, and Chris Young in the pen.