A veteran and a rookie are pitching like never before for the KC Royals.
However and wherever this final season of his five-year contract with the Royals ends, Danny Duffy will have pocketed $65 million from the club to which he hasn’t provided an overwhelming return. He’s had only one winning season—a 7-6 contribution to the club’s 103-loss 2018 campaign—and kept his ERA under 4.00 only once since signing the contract in the winter of 2017. Simply put, Duffy’s performance over the life of the deal is remarkable because it’s been so unremarkable.
Look at him now. Duffy is a changed hurler and pitching like he should. In fact, it’s hard to find any point in his career when he’s been better.
Only Jake deGrom and Corbin Burnes have big league ERAs better than Duffy’s American League-best 0.39. Only three major leaguers have more wins than Duffy’s three. Excluding ties, his 27 strikeouts rank seventh in the American League. The 899+ ERA he owned going into Sunday exceeded by over 660 points any season ERA+ he’s ever had. His 10.57 SO9 is also better than any of his season marks, none of which have exceeded 10.
Duffy is 3-1 in four starts and has surrendered only one earned run in 23 innings. He pitched six shutout innings in both his first and third starts, and added another five scoreless frames in beating Detroit Sunday; the eight Tigers he fanned equaled the eight Tampa Bay Rays he struck out in his last start.
Fun? Absolutely. For Danny Duffy, the Royals, and the fans.
Let’s not forget the bullpen, especially surprising Jake Brentz. Brentz didn’t figure in KC’s big league plans when spring training began, but won an Opening Day roster spot and hasn’t looked back. Pitching with uncharacteristic poise for a rookie whose control has been the biggest obstacle to a major league career, Brentz’s 3.0 BB9, 2.00 ERA (opponents are scoreless in nine of his 11 appearances), and 10 strikeouts in nine innings, have manager Mike Matheny willing to use him in some difficult situations.
And Josh Staumont is recovering well from a pre-season bout with COVID-19. He picked up his first save Saturday, has given up a run only once in nine games, and owns a 0.82 ERA.
The KC Royals are having fun again. The underlying numbers show why.