As Danny Duffy pitches into his 30s, the Kansas City Royals should consider moving him into the bullpen.
Danny Duffy will always be a fan favorite, as well as a personal favorite. He was here for the World Series run in 2015. He is as committed to the Kansas City Royals as any modern player is to an organization. He is also genuinely a good dude.
The goal for Duffy, at age 31, needs to be getting the most out of him during the second half of his career. His peak season was 2016. He threw nearly 180 innings and he struck out more than 180 batters. His strikeouts per walk was 4.5. His WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) was 1.1.
Duffy’s performance has not exactly fallen off a cliff since 2016. In 2017, he was still a 3 WAR player. But he also only made it through 24 starts and less than 150 innings. Missing time due to injuries has been a recurring theme during his career.
2019 was Danny Duffy’s age 30 season. He was still an above-average pitcher with an ERA+ of 109. On the other hand, he also barely made it through 130 innings. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is getting slightly worse each season. His once destructive fastball that used to average 95 MPH now has come down to 92.
Duffy has countered by using a higher percentage of breaking balls. But the writing is on the wall. He now strikes out less than 8 per 9 innings as a starter. He is also giving up the highest home runs per 9 innings of his career.
Duffy will be a useful starter next season, at least while healthy. He probably has a few more seasons left of being a back-end of the rotation kind of guy. But, is that where he is most valuable?
It is difficult to make any grand conclusions about a pitcher after less than 35 innings as a reliever. In this small sample size, Duffy has been very good. He has struck out 44. His ERA is 2.08 with a Batting Average Against of .205.
What makes the most sense for the Royals is to go get a couple of front-end starting rotation pieces. Allow Duffy to move to the bullpen and become one of the arms we count on to finish off close games. He has the mental toughness to be a high-pressure situation pitcher. He still has the stuff to get guys out in high leverage situations.
We have seen what moving Ian Kennedy to the bullpen did for a starting pitcher with decent stuff who seemed to have lost something off his fastball. He has excelled now that he is able to focus on one inning at a time. It does not take a ton of imagination to see that Duffy could be at least as good as Kennedy in a similar role. Maybe the best way to fix the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen is to add a couple of new starters to the rotation and move a couple of our existing starters to the bullpen.