Dodgers Add Danny Duffy as Potential Multi-Inning Relief Weapon

At the start of the season, the Dodgers had so much pitching depth it was a legitimate question as to how they would effectively use all of their talent. But what was a source of strength for Los Angeles in March has become a reason for cautious concern in July, as the team lost Dustin May to Tommy John surgery in early May and Clayton Kershaw to elbow inflammation in July. In the bullpen, meanwhile, Corey Knebel was lost on April 24 to a lat injury, Scott Alexander went on the IL for a second time on July 20 with left shoulder inflammation, and Joe Kelly is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. The Dodgers shifted Tony Gonsolin and David Price to the rotation to patch some of those holes, but while that pair’s been mostly effective as starters, that’s come at the expense of bullpen depth.

The bottom line is that the Dodgers probably needed to bolster their pitching staff, and that’s been the case since even before Trevor Bauer was placed on administrative leave while MLB and the Pasadena Police Department investigate disturbing charges of sexual assault. His latest hearing was postponed until at least August 16, and MLB has extended his administrative leave until at least August 6; it’s an open question at this point if he’ll pitch again this season (or for Los Angeles).

So with 36 hours until the deadline, the Dodgers made a deal with the Royals to replenish some of that depth with injured veteran Danny Duffy, who is in the final year of his contract and could work as a middle reliever or spot starter. Given his nature as a rental, the two teams will settle on player(s) to be named later from a pre-approved list, with Los Angeles also getting some cash back from Kansas City.

Duffy landed on the IL on July 17, his second stint there in 2021; both were for forearm injuries. The first, a flexor strain, kept him out of the rotation for 40 days. Coming off a down 2020 and the owner of a 4.68 ERA over the last three seasons, there wasn’t much reason to expect him to be of much help to the Royals this year. But when he has been healthy, he’s substantially overperformed his projections; check out his preseason projections, actual numbers, and rest-of-season projections below:

Duffy DC Projections and Actuals 2021
Period IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
Preseason DC 151 8.14 3.25 4.81 4.77
ROS DC 43 8.86 3.24 4.42 4.30
Actual 61 9.59 3.25 2.51 4.18

There are at least three reasons to believe Duffy might have figured something out. First, he’s improved his chase rate, putting up a career-high 30.7% mark in that stat and going from the 35th percentile in that stat last season to the 80th this year, according to Statcast. Along with that, he’s getting more swings and misses (a career-best 29.1% whiff rate) and giving up less contact. Take a look at his pitch mix and you’ll see that among Duffy’s five-pitch arsenal, there is really only one offering that batters are doing a lot of damage on at the moment: the sinker, a pitch he only throws about 12% of the time.

2021 Pitch Type, Usage and Results
Pitch Type % Usage MPH wOBA SLG
4-Seam 43.4% 93.7 .284 .311
Slider 18.2% 83.4 .220 .333
Changeup 15.4% 85.2 .245 .361
Sinker 12.2% 93.6 .489 .667
Curveball 10.8% 77.3 .251 .316
SOURCE: Baseball Savant

If Duffy does slot into the bullpen and work in shorter stints, he could ditch or at least shelve the sinker, which could make him more effective.

Duffy also doesn’t have pronounced splits — left-handed batters have a .292 wOBA against Duffy, righties are at .283 — and hitters from either side of the plate don’t do well against him first time through the order, slashing an abysmal .192/.259/.293 with a .248 wOBA. That combo would seem to bode well for a potential multi-inning reliever.

Finally, Dodger Stadium is a friendlier park for pitchers than Kauffman Stadium, albeit not by much; the former ranks 12th in Statcast’s park factors for 2021, the latter 10th. That said, Kauffman and its wide power alleys create a lot of extra-base hits, particularly for right-handed hitters — something that is decidedly not the case at Chavez Ravine. And while Dodger Stadium is more homer-friendly than Kauffman, Duffy has slashed his home-run rate, going from 1.6 per nine last season to 0.89, making him a better fit for his new home in southern California.

This move is probably one of many the Dodgers will make; the rumors that they’re acquiring Max Scherzer are flying fast. But even though Duffy is no Scherzer, he could be a devastating weapon in Los Angeles’ title defense.

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2 years ago

Ah yes. The opening act