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  • Three Critical Developments in Tyler Duffey's Progression to Dominance


    Jamie Cameron

    Despite having a clear need in their bullpen, the Twins spent last offseason focusing on offensive upgrades. Their only addition was fungible reliever Blake Parker, who assumed the likeness of Robert Hays from the movie ‘Airplane’ every time he took the mound. Parker was eventually designated for assignment around midseason and the Twins seem to have made the right choice in focusing on developing in-house options. One of the most impressive internal leaps in 2019 was taken by Tyler Duffey.

    Image courtesy of © Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Duffey put together a second half for the ages, giving up just a .208 wOBA, a .245 SLG and striking out 47 hitters in 29.1 second half innings. What led to Duffey’s surge to dominance? Here are three important steps he took in 2019.

     

    Changing pitch mix and increased velocity

    Duffey’s pitch mix has changed markedly from the beginning of 2018, as evidenced below (visual via Baseball Savant):

     

    ccs-8747-0-70468800-1571348786_thumb.jpeg

     

    At the beginning of 2019, Duffey all but did away with his ineffective sinker, beginning to rely more heavily on his slider. In addition to ditching a pitch altogether, Duffey’s location began to shift dramatically. In 2018, Duffey was working primarily middle and down in the strike zone. This did not work well. In 2018, Duffey’s fastball was annihilated to the tune of a 1.011 OPS and 180 wRC+ against, making it a truly dysfunctional pitch.

     

    ccs-8747-0-00575900-1571431026_thumb.png

     

    In 2019, Duffey began to shift his fastball location up in the zone (visuals via Brooks Baseball).

     

    ccs-8747-0-44080800-1571431037_thumb.png

     

    Duffey’s fastball velocity is another data point of note. His four-seamer maxed out at 97.4 mph in 2019, almost three mph more than in his big league debut in 2015. This combination of increased velocity, elevation, and solid fastball spin rate (63rd percentile in MLB) transformed Duffey’s fastball into a strength. In 2019, opposing hitters managed just a .599 OPS and 66 wRC+ against it. In short, it became a dominant pitch.

     

    The Development of a Super Slider

    Duffey’s slider is unusual in that it has more vertical drop on average than any other slider in MLB (about 33% more than typical). Duffey’s slider performs opposite to that of Sergio Romo (who achieves a large amount of horizontal movement resulting in consistent soft contact). Duffey’s simply bottoms out, resulting in a 16.2 SwStr% in 2019. Indeed, Duffey’s vertical movement on his slider increased significantly in 2019 (visual via Baseball Savant)

     

    ccs-8747-0-74008800-1571361048_thumb.jpeg

    Duffey’s increase in slider velocity (+2 mph in 2019) and his ability to command it had devastating effects. He gave up just a .257 wOBA and 69 wRC+ on the pitch in 2019 and took 150 points of opposing OPS off the pitch. Duffey now has two plus pitches, all you need to be an outstanding major league reliever.

     

    Finally, Duffey showed outstanding command of his slider (image courtesy of FanGraphs). There is a tight clustering of the pitch down and away from right-handed hitters. Duffey rarely hung the pitch. When he missed with it, he tended to miss low and away. His ability to locate his slider down and away to right-handed hitters combined with it’s precipitous drop made it the second devastating pitch from a pitcher who began the season at Triple-A Rochester. After his impressive second half, Duffey finished in the 94th percentile in MLB in K%, and 85th percentile in xSLG.

     

    ccs-8747-0-90882200-1571361055_thumb.png

    Looking Back, Looking Ahead

    The 28-year-old Duffey should remind Twins fans of a few truths heading into 2020. Player development is not linear. Much like Mitch Garver, Duffey’s rise to prominence should make fans throw out old nonsense notions about ‘age’, ‘development’ and ‘ceiling’. Secondly, he should reaffirm Twins fans faith in their front office, analytics and player development departments. Duffey has transformed into a modern reliever. A high velocity fastball with a solid spin located up in the zone and a wipe- out slider which he throws a ton. I’ll be interested to see if the Twins choose to add externally to their bullpen this offseason. I’ll be more interested to try and pick apart who the next internal guy for a makeover might be.


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    So what happened to the Duff man in ALDS?  Five inherited runners; five scored!  

     

    Sorry, Duffy has always been vulnerable to giving up the bomb at the most inopportune time and did not disappoint  against the Yankees.  No, I'm not discounting his improvement in the second half of 2019, but until he shows he can dominate when it really counts against top offenses, color me sceptical.

     

    The Twins still have a need for at least one(and preferably two) late inning shutdown arms going forward.

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    Excellent article, thanks.

     

    With Duffey and May joining Rogers at the back end, the Twins bullpen should be a strength the next couple years.  Add last year's two rookies, Littell and Stashak, and it is five eighths set.  Hopefully, they will add one dominant lefty over the winter along with another veteran...maybe Romo?  Wouldn't be surprised to see the long reliever spot filled like last year, recycling AAA starters every week or ten days.  Gives them major league experience while also limiting innings for a few guys like Graterol. 

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    So what happened to the Duff man in ALDS?  Five inherited runners; five scored!  

     

    Sorry, Duffy has always been vulnerable to giving up the bomb at the most inopportune time and did not disappoint  against the Yankees.  No, I'm not discounting his improvement in the second half of 2019, but until he shows he can dominate when it really counts against top offenses, color me sceptical.

     

    The Twins still have a need for at least one(and preferably two) late inning shutdown arms going forward.

    To be fair, Rocco really threw him to the lions.  I actually felt bad for the kid, but THERE was where he needed to make his bones and he failed both times.

     

    I think he is much improved and will be useful going forward.  In the long run we as fans need to decide whether or not the postseason actually matters.  

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    1] IMO, Romo is back, and there is no reason for him not to be.

     

    2] Unless they want to convert Thorpe to the bullpen this early...SO potential and goodmoversll stuff...which I don't think they will, badly need to add another quality LHRP via trade or FA. I'm fine with the pen otherwise.

     

    3] Not saying Dyson will be back but say again don't be surprised on a split deal where he recovers in 2020...with a possible late season appearance...but with an eye toward a healthy 2021.

     

    4] Back to Duffey here, I could be mistaken, but I don't believe he ever had a slider until this season. He threw 2 different FB and threw his curve at different speeds presumably/possibly, with different grips. And then he attempted a change he could never master. Pretty sure the slider...maybe it was a new, harder, different version of his curve...was developed this season. If memory serves.

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    Excellent article, thanks.

     

    With Duffey and May joining Rogers at the back end, the Twins bullpen should be a strength the next couple years.  Add last year's two rookies, Littell and Stashak, and it is five eighths set.  Hopefully, they will add one dominant lefty over the winter along with another veteran...maybe Romo?  Wouldn't be surprised to see the long reliever spot filled like last year, recycling AAA starters every week or ten days.  Gives them major league experience while also limiting innings for a few guys like Graterol. 

    Thanks for reading! I'd like to see Romo back. I'd also say Stashak has an inside track to a pen spot. I'd like to see them add a lefty like Will Smith or Drew Pomeranz but agreed that their pen is set up well over the next few years to be a strength.

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    1] IMO, Romo is back, and there is no reason for him not to be.

    2] Unless they want to convert Thorpe to the bullpen this early...SO potential and goodmoversll stuff...which I don't think they will, badly need to add another quality LHRP via trade or FA. I'm fine with the pen otherwise.

    3] Not saying Dyson will be back but say again don't be surprised on a split deal where he recovers in 2020...with a possible late season appearance...but with an eye toward a healthy 2021.

    4] Back to Duffey here, I could be mistaken, but I don't believe he ever had a slider until this season. He threw 2 different FB and threw his curve at different speeds presumably/possibly, with different grips. And then he attempted a change he could never master. Pretty sure the slider...maybe it was a new, harder, different version of his curve...was developed this season. If memory serves.

    1) Agreed, for performance and leadership

     

    2) Also agreed, I like Smith (obvi) and Pomeranz as FA options.

     

    3) I don't think they'll give Dyson that kind of deal. RP is so volatile year on year and they've shown an ability to get internal guys there which makes him moot for the Twins by 2021 I think, although I see the logic behind it.

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    1) Agreed, for performance and leadership

     

    2) Also agreed, I like Smith (obvi) and Pomeranz as FA options.

     

    3) I don't think they'll give Dyson that kind of deal. RP is so volatile year on year and they've shown an ability to get internal guys there which makes him moot for the Twins by 2021 I think, although I see the logic behind it.

    Tend to agree on Dyson. And we didn't give much to get him really. Just a thought since they embrace out of box thinking.

     

    Agree there are further options on hand to call up. Wonder about Romero staying in the pen. Also wonder about Poppen. I see him in the Rochester rotation for possible depth and to keep him stretched out.

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    Tend to agree on Dyson. And we didn't give much to get him really. Just a thought since they embrace out of box thinking.

    Agree there are further options on hand to call up. Wonder about Romero staying in the pen. Also wonder about Poppen. I see him in the Rochester rotation for possible depth and to keep him stretched out.

    This may be the first time I see myself disagreeing with your comments, Doc.

     

    I am of the opinion that we gave up a lot to get Dyson.  Was it too much to get the shutdown reliever we thought we needed at the time?  No, considering how important the pen was for the final playoff run. 

     

    Not only did we give up an outfielder who was ripping the cover off the ball at AAA, but we gave up two promising young starters.  Yes, they both were in the lower levels of minor league ball, but I will be shocked if one isn't in some team's starting rotation four or five years from now.  Of the two I really liked Teng.

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    This may be the first time I see myself disagreeing with your comments, Doc.

     

    I am of the opinion that we gave up a lot to get Dyson. Was it too much to get the shutdown reliever we thought we needed at the time? No, considering how important the pen was for the final playoff run.

     

    Not only did we give up an outfielder who was ripping the cover off the ball at AAA, but we gave up two promising young starters. Yes, they both were in the lower levels of minor league ball, but I will be shocked if one isn't in some team's starting rotation four or five years from now. Of the two I really liked Teng.

    Go ahead and disagree because I'm starting to disagree with myself, lol. I guess what I meant to say was we didnt give up any top prospects so I could see them moving on.

     

    Teng was the guy I hated to lose also.

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    Go ahead and disagree because I'm starting to disagree with myself, lol. I guess what I meant to say was we didnt give up any top prospects so I could see them moving on.

    Teng was the guy I hated to lose also.

    I can agree with both your disagreement with yourself and what you meant to say.   :P

     

    Who knows, maybe they will sit down at the winter meetings and the SFO front office will agree to send one of the two pitchers back as comp for the fact Dyson was injured when traded.  We can dream, can't we?

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    3 critical developments. 

     

    KC

    Detroit

    CWS

     

    Add in September rosters in and AL that was severely top heavy for a 4th if you wish. 

     

     

     

    I kid, I kid. 

     

    I am hoping Duffey can continue the stretch he was on the second half of the season. He looked really good out there, was throwing gas and his breaking stuff seemed to have a heck of alot more bite on it than years past when that looping curveball was his best pitch. 

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    Another thing not mentioned here but I read in a TD interview with Duffey how he came to accept the concept of tunneling. By throwing a four seamer up instead of the two seamer down his fastball would initially track along the same path as his slider creating deception. You could see he had guys guessing out there and when they did guess right he still had the stuff to make them miss.

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