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Who passes – and who fails?
This is another installment in our series grading the individual performances of the key members of the 2019 Minnesota Twins. Each player will receive a classic grade on the scale of A through F, based on their hitting, fielding, and whatever else the author wants to consider. Check out our other previous installments in the related section below. Today, I’ll be reviewing reliever Tyler Duffey’s season.
After a fairly disastrous 2018 campaign (7.20 ERA, 60 ERA+, 19 games, 25 IP, 19 K, 4 BB, 6 HR), you could say that Tyler Duffey had a bounce back year in 2019 for the Minnesota Twins. His ERA (2.50) ranked best among Twins relievers and 20th among qualified MLB relievers, his FIP (3.06) ranked 17th among MLB relievers (second to Taylor Rogers’ 2.85), and his 12.8 K/9 ranked 17th among MLB relievers and best in the Twins bullpen.
So how did Duffey make the best of a bounce back year? First, consider his home/away splits. a 2.30 ERA at home in 29 appearances and 27.1 innings logged. He allowed three homers and nine walks while striking out 43. While visiting ballparks, he put up a 2.67 ERA over 30.1 innings of work in 29 games. He allowed five homers, five walks, and got 39 Ks. Fairly similar stats between playing at Target Field and playing elsewhere, which, in opinion, is ideal since it shows he can pitch anywhere and be reliable.
Secondly, The Duff Man has been put into either high-leverage or low-leverage situations the most. According to Baseball-Reference, Rocco Baldelli opted to rely on Duffey 22 times in high-leverage spots, 13 times in medium-leverage scenarios, and 21 times in low-leverage situations. It’s the third-most high-leverage scenarios out of Twins relievers behind Rogers (39, which is expected as a closer) and Trevor May (26). On the other end, it’s the second-most low-leverage situations out of the bullpen behind Ryne Harper (24). It shows the flexibility that Duffey has in one of his top three relievers.
Lastly, Duffey has improved since his first season as a reliever in 2017, where he posted a 4.94 ERA (90 ERA+) in 56 relief outings. Duffey relied on his four-seam fastball 51.5% of the time in 2019 compared to only 26.5% of the time in 2017, according to FanGraphs. On top of that, probably with the assistance of pitching coach Wes Johnson, he’s added two miles-per-hour on that four-seamer since 2017. He’s also upped his curveball usage by 10.3% and added a little bit more gas to that while relying less on his sinker (2.5%, which he uses a bit more to left-handed batters), and his change-up (0.5%).
Certainly, Duffey has the confidence of both Baldelli and Johnson. He’s versatile in many different pressure scenarios and has narrowed down to two pitches that he can rely on. He’s also consistent with his pitching between working on the road and at home. With 2019 in the books, Duffey has proven to be a solid reliever to use in either the seventh or eighth inning of a close game to get to the closer.
Overall grade: A-