KC Royals Hot Take: Danny Duffy should move to the bullpen

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

With some of the KC Royals young arms coming up through the minors I believe that Danny Duffy should move to the bullpen to make space in the rotation. Now, this does not have to happen this year, but it should happen next year.

There are many reasons Danny Duffy should move to the bullpen outside of making space for the plethora of young starters in the Royals farm system. One of the reasons is the fact that he has a really good track record in the bullpen and the fact that all of his pitches are good alongside his ability to keep batters off-balance with his slide-step and his old stretch motion.

Another reason for Duffy moving to the pen is the fact that some starters who struggle or never really develop or stagnate statistically go into the bullpen and become stars, i.e Wade Davis. As of now, Danny Duffy has been dull statistically for a couple of years. He has not really developed into the ace the KC Royals have needed for a while.

To begin let’s go over Duffy’s previous experience in the bullpen. The first stint for Duffy in the bullpen came in his age 25-26 season back in 2014 and since that season he has 28 relief appearances in the major leagues. Here are his combined stats from his time as a relief pitcher.

As a reliever, Danny Duffy has a 2.02 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 4.4 K/BB ratio, and allowed only 27% of batters to get on base, all according to FanGraphs. Compare that to his starting numbers in 2014-2016 Duffy has a 4.19 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 2.77 K/BB ratio, and allowed 30.7% of batters to get on-base, according to FanGraphs. For his stats as a starter in 2014-2016, they are pretty much league average or worse.

If those stats are not convincing due to sample size then let us look at his stuff and the ways Duffy keeps batters off-balance. Danny Duffy has a four-seam fastball (91.2 MPH), a changeup (84.1 MPH), a curve (76.3 MPH), a sinker (91.9 MPH), and a slider (82.7 MPH), which are all decent or better than the league average. Duffy’s best pitch is his four-seam followed by his slider/curve and his changeup according to spin rate, usage, and break on the pitches.

With his above-average fastball, average changeup based on movement, and his slightly above average slider/curve Duffy also employs a slide-step, which is his normal stretch motion as of 2018. With his slide-step, he can also go back to his old stretch motion, shown here in an old highlight reel, which was used when he first switched to the stretch full-time.

With both his pitching repertoire and his ability to use a slide-step or his old motion he can be very effective out of the bullpen as he can keep batters unbalanced and uncomfortable. Moreover, multiple starters in the league have made the transition from being a starter to being a reliever, some being former or current KC Royals.

The most recent and successful starter to reliever stories in recent memory is Wade Davis, Raisel Iglesias, Luke Hochevar, and Ian Kennedy. These are just recent memory of successful transitions from starter to reliever, though historically, the list could contain John Smoltz, Rollie Fingers, Rich Gossage, and Dennis Eckersley as some of the most successful.

Moreover, let’s compare Duffy’s stats as a starter to Wade Davis and Raisel Iglesias’ stats as starters. For Iglesias, he had a 3.60 FIP, 1.18 WHIP, 3.85 K/BB, and allowed an OBP of 30% in 21 starts before his transition. Wade Davis’s had a 4.49 FIP, 1.45 WHIP, 1.88 K/BB, and allowed an OBP of 34.1% in 88 starts according to FanGraphs. Duffy is in-between both of these players with 184 starts so he has had more success than both of these players in the long-run.

To add on to the comparisons lets compare all of their reliever stats. For Davis, he had a 2.96 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 2.97 K/BB, and allowed an OBP of 27.6%, all this while having two back to back bad seasons statistically. Moreover, Iglesias has a 3.49 FIP, 1.12 WHIP, 3.49 K/BB, and allowed an OBP of 28.3%, while again having down years in the two years previous to this one, all according to FanGraphs.

For Duffy, his stats as a reliever are better than both of these mid to elite relievers, not that either of these relievers are elite, but at one point in their careers, they were above average in most statistical categories. This also shows that these relievers have been good for a decent stretch of time and Duffy could benefit from being a mid to elite tier reliever.

Now for Duffy to move to the bullpen a decent amount of things have to happen, for one the young arms need to be called up, i.e Daniel Lynch, Asa Lacy, and or Jackson Kowar. Another thing that would have to happen is that Duffy starts to struggle in the starting spot, which is how most transitions to the bullpen happen.

I believe that both of these things are strong possibilities to happen as the KC Royals have already started calling up some of the young starters in the farm system, Brady Singer and Kris Bubic. With some of the young arms coming up Duffy will probably be under more and more pressure to be the de-facto ace and I think that will not last long as he has been inconsistent for a few years.

As of this year, Danny Duffy has been a very mediocre pitcher for pretty much his whole career. Now I am not bashing Duffy, but he is not an ace pitcher by any means. Moreover, in his brief 28 games as a reliever, Duffy is an elite bullpen arm with good mechanics and multiple ways to get hitters out.

Additionally, Duffy has some help when it comes to the transition, mainly Ian Kennedy and Wade Davis and maybe Luke Hochevar. The KC Royals have done this before and have experience with this transition. With these three’s help along with his previous experience as a reliever, Duffy could become an elite arm in the bullpen for a couple of years.

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At the moment the KC Royals do not need to make this move, but they should consider it as most of the rotation is going to be a lot of the younger arms. Even if Duffy is in the bullpen, he can still be a mentor to these pitchers and help them develop while still being an effective pitcher.