Monday, August 19, 2019

Contemplating Tyler Duffey

Tyler Duffey has been credited with the win in each of his last three appearances, including Friday and Saturday. (The Friday one was initially awarded to Sam Dyson and changed the next morning.)

"The Doof" -- that's what will be on the back of his Player's Weekend jersey -- is the rare Twins reliever who hasn't gotten a save. But he's 4-1 with seven holds, he's only blown one lead this year, he hasn't been charged with a run in almost a month, and he seems to currently be the preferred get-out-of-a-jam option in the middle innings.

Duffey has ridden a roller-coaster for his career. The Twins drafted him out of Rice University -- where he was a closer -- and made him a starter. He had 10 down-the-stretch starts in 2015 in which he was one of Paul Molitor's more reliable rotation arms.

And then it fell apart for him. In 2016 he got 26 starts and pitched to an ERA of 6.43. That did for him as a major-league starter.

In 2017 Molitor used him successfully for about two months as a multi-inning reliever with rest between outings. Then Molitor, dealing as he generally had to with a thin bullpen, tried to cut back on the rest. Duffey's ERA was 2.10 after his appearance on May 28; he finished the season at 4.94.

In 2018 he rode the Rochester shuttle and made just 19 major league appearances with an ERA of 7.20. Ugly.

He started this season that same shuttle, but once he came up a second time in May he's stuck. And his role has increased.

He has for years tried to pitch with two fastballs -- a two-seamer and a four-seamer -- but there wasn't much separation in velocity and he didn't get reliable movement with the  two-seamer. It appears that he's largely junked that sinker this year. And his strikeout rate has spiked to more than 11 K/9 -- a statistical trait that makes him valuable with men on base.

Duffey is not closing games, but he's closing innings.

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