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Trade Danny Duffy Now!

The most valuable commodity in dynasty league baseball is a young player coming off an excellent season. 25 year old Danny Duffy fits the bill. He put up a 2.53 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 149.1 innings this year. He finished the season ranked #34 among starting pitchers on Yahoo, #52 on CBS and #36 on ESPN’s Player Rater. He also got a ton of media attention because his team made it all the way through the playoffs into the World Series. His owners are thrilled to have him and almost everybody else wants him. Because of his youth and great season Duffy should have a ton of fantasy value right now, right? Yes, Duffy does have a lot of trade value, but he does not offer a lot of real production value moving forward.

Unfortunately Duffy’s fantasy stats are hiding some nasty surprises. His peripherals are not good, in fact they are downright grim. His 2.53 ERA was great but his 4.42 xFIP and 4.31 SIERA are almost two full runs higher. The bad news is that xFIP and SIERA do a great job of predicting the future, so it looks like gruesome things are in store for Duffy’s 2015 prognosis. Duffy got really lucky with a .239 BABIP (.295 is league average) and a little bit lucky with a 77.2% Strand Rate (73% is average). His home run rate was also unsustainably low considering he is a strong fly ball pitcher. All these factors point to dramatic rises in Duffy’s ERA and WHIP next year.

You might counter by saying we should expect Duffy to outperform his peripherals because he pitches in a strong pitcher’s park and the Royals have a great defense. Well, we were told over and over how good they were by the broadcasters during the playoffs. But in reality the Royals’ defensive rank was 12th in the majors, which is only slightly better than average and certainly not enough to make a big positive difference in his ERA and WHIP. Kaufman Stadium does suppress home runs somewhat but it does not in fact suppress runs. As I mentioned in my piece on Yordano Ventura, Kaufman Stadium is a neutral to slightly hitter-friendly ballpark that is not going to bail Duffy out of his messy peripherals.

Despite his lovely ERA and WHIP in 2014 he had a losing record of 9 Wins and 12 Losses. It is pretty hard to have a losing record on a playoff team when you put up a 2.53 ERA. It is unlikely the Royals will win as many games next year as they did this year, so we might reasonably expect Duffy to garner fewer wins himself. However he suffered a disproportionate number of blown saves in games he left with the lead this year and we might see that phenomenon correct itself in a good way next year. In 2014 he didn’t join the rotation until May and only started 25 games. Next year he will presumably get 32 starts if he remains in the rotation the entire season. So let’s budget for approximately 10 wins and 14 losses in 2015.

The biggest problem with Duffy is his subpar strikeout rate of only 6.81 K/9 combined with his poor walk rate of 3.19 BB/9 innings. Both are worse than the league averages of 7.34 K/9 and 2.79 BB/9 among starting pitchers. His 2.13 K/BB ratio is way too low to allow him to have any kind of success over the long haul. A pitcher needs a 3.00 K/BB ratio just to be average. To be a good fantasy pitcher it needs to be 4+ KK/9 and to be an ace it needs to be at 5+ K/BB. An even better way to gauge a pitcher’s effectiveness is his K% minus his BB%. Duffy’s  9.90 K-BB% is well below the league average of 12.07%. You just cannot be a good pitcher at that level. Duffy only struck out 113 batters total last year. That is not going to be good enough to help your team win a championship. Duffy was able to post good strikeout rates in the minors but those have not translated into the big leagues.

Duffy has good velocity, especially for a southpaw. He relies heavily on his 94 mph fastball, throwing it a whopping 70% of the time. He drastically reduced his changeup usage in 2014, choosing to feature the slider/curve instead. FanGraphs classifies all his breaking pitches as curveballs, whereas Brooks Baseball breaks it into a slider and a curve that he throws at the same speed (which is odd because usually a curve is slower than a slider if a pitcher has both). From the hitter’s perspective there is very little if any difference between the two pitches. To elevate his performance to another level, Duffy is going to have to develop an effective offspeed pitch to keep hitters from concentrating on his fastball.

Projections

Based on his peripherals I project Duffy’s 2015 stat line as follows:
10-14 Record, 4.25 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 140 Ks in 190 innings.

FanGraphs’ Steamer projects are similar:
9-8 Record, 3.96 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 118 Ks in 144 innings.

The Verdict

Danny Duffy is widely perceived as a quality young pitcher with a bright future and a lot of fantasy value. Now is the time to sell high. Put him on the market and advertise his stellar ERA and WHIP while touting his youth and prospect pedigree. You should be able to easily trade him for a safer, more proven veteran performer or elite prospect. I think 2014 will go down in history as the best season of Duffy’s career by a large margin. Cash in his value now while you still can!

If you make a trade involving Duffy be sure to let us know in the comments.

More Help For Your Pitching Staff

I  have been spending this offseason focusing on starting pitchers. To crush your competition, improve your pitching staff by reading these recent columns as well:

Want a Cheap Ace Pitcher? Go to Cleveland.

Now is the Time to Sell Julio Teheran

Yordano Ventura: Buy or Sell?

Dallas Keuchel: Can We Trust Him in 2015?

Is Carlos Carrasco an Ace Now?

Danny Salazar is Still Sleeping

Ace Smackdown: Jon Lester vs Madison Bumgarner

New Ace Smackdown: Collin McHugh vs Matt Shoemaker

Young Ace Smackdown: Alex Cobb vs Alex Wood

Young Ace Smackdown: Danny Duffy vs Jake Arrieta

Nick Doran also writes at Fake Teams. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @BlazingFastba11.

The Author

Nick Doran

Nick Doran

6 Comments

  1. […] believes fantasy owners need to trade Danny Duffy right […]

  2. Greg
    December 15, 2014 at 5:59 pm — Reply

    I moved Duffy last month with one year remaining on his contract. We allow Free Agent claims to be carried over one additional season for a total of $5.

    Full trade was Duffy/Joe Panik/Marlon Byrd for a hopefully resurgent Jason Kipnis.

    All of the players were in the final season of their deals, but feel like I certainly got the best player in the move and have the pitching depth to not miss Duffy.

    • December 15, 2014 at 6:35 pm — Reply

      I really like that deal Greg. You did get the best player. Well done!

  3. jim
    December 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm — Reply

    i couldn’t disagree more. the peripherals are not great and everybody and their brother is pegging duffy as a sell high candidate, but the thing everyone is forgetting is that last year was his first year back after tommy john and typically pitchers aren’t fully recovered until the 2nd year following.

    his LOB has always been about 70-80%, because he walks a lot of guys, but that wildness also allows him to induce shite contact and high strikeouts. last year we saw his k rate drop to near porcelloian levels, but he has traditionally been a 8ish k/9 guy. The k rate plays a huge part in his siera and FIP #’s, but is there any reason to believe he is a 6 k/9 guy? did the stuff change? his curve is still pretty filthy and who doesn’t love a mid 90’s heater from the left (with movement).
    3.8 era 1.35 whip 165 k’s 190 innings and we say an increase in both walks and k’s.

    • December 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm — Reply

      You could be right Jim. We will see. He will need some really big improvements in his peripherals if he is going to stay close to his 2014 fantasy performance. The stat line you project is a big dropoff from his stats this season, so even if your projections are correct wouldn’t he still be a big sell high candidate? After TJ the command is the last thing to come back, so maybe Duffy will walk a few less hitters this year.

      • jim
        September 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm — Reply

        well, I was off by a year, but …

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