Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Contemplating Tyler Duffey

Tyler Duffey was a
5th-round pick in the
2012 draft.
Last season Tyler Duffey pitched 58 major league innings, posting a 3.10 ERA with four home runs allowed.

After Tuesday's ugly start (three innings, six runs, three homers), Duffey this season has worked 59.2 innings with a 6.18 ERA. Almost the same amount of innings, almost double the runs allowed.

I had been inclined to blame Duffey's spring training struggles on a one-size-fits-all coaching philosophy. Neil Allen wants everybody to throw a changeup, and Duffey didn't last season. He threw two fast balls (four seam and two seam) and two curves (one smaller and harder, the other larger and slower). Duffey entered camp with a rotation spot and was urged to spend spring training developing a straight change. He did so, got hammered, and wound up losing the rotation spot for a few weeks with a minor league demotion.

But now he's in the majors, he's not (apparently) getting hit on changeups, and he's nowhere near the out machine he was down the stretch in 2015.

His strikeout rate is slightly lower this year, but his walk rate has improved, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is much better. Those are the leading indicator stats that still give me some optimism about Duffey.

But those home runs are sure adding up: eleven and counting this year, after just four in his rookie year. He yielded three Tuesday night alone.

To me, this suggests that control and stuff aren't the issue. Command is. Drawing a connection between his 2016 struggles and his big increase in innings (majors and minors combined) in 2015 may not be accurate, but it's possible the latter caused the former.

So where do the Twins and Duffey go from here? Duffey has to be considered a candidate for demotion, but Jose Berrios hasn't exactly been tearing it up in Triple A since his demotion,  and the only other healthy starters left on the 40-man roster are the just-demoted Pat Dean (not eligible yet for recall) and Randy Rosario, who is in high A ball and not anywhere near the radar screen for a callup.

Between the shortage of viable alternatives and the still-respectable walk and strikeout stats, I would advocate patience with Duffey at this point, but I can't say I'm very enthusiastic about that recommendation.

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