The San Francisco Giants are rapidly approaching the start of the season in little more than a week, and are getting the opportunity to see a spirited assault on Joaquin Arias’ coveted backup infield spot by Matt Duffy. What Duffy did Friday night was triple and knock in two runs in an 8-4 win over the Dodgers at Camelback Stadium, while batting .385 so far this spring.
The veteran Arias has been a Giant since 2012 and has played on both World Championship teams, but his numbers are beginning to dim the advantages that his versatility provides, and Duffy is having the kind of spring that might just produce a change.
What the Giants need to alter most is their potentially weak offense and Duffy’s spring 1.133 OPS is a beckoning ray of light.
The Giants need more offense; Duffy has potential to provide an upgrade off the bench; therefore, the Giants need to-what?
With the departure of bothPablo Sandoval
, the price of poker has gone up, with the new ante becoming the ability to get on base and make something happen.
Duffy has shown ability in both areas, with a minor league OPS of .800, and a memorable dash home in the ninth inning of Game Two of the National League Championship Series. The memorable part stems from the fact that his “dash” originated from second base, as he took advantage of a ball that bounced in front of the plate and got past Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz. Cruz himself had just entered the game in the seventh for an injured Yadier Molina, out with a left oblique issue.
Duffy scored the tying run of a game the Giants would go on to lose in the bottom of the ninth, 5-4, when Kolten Wong hit a walk-off home run off of Sergio Romo. For a player who does not have flashy stats, Duffy is a below-the-radar kind of player who has had an immediate impact on whatever team he has played for.
photo by Densie Walos
This is not to say that Joaquin Arias has not done an excellent job in the past for the Giants, particularly when it came to replacing Pablo Sandoval in the lineup, a routine occurrence in the past three seasons. He provided a sense of relief that we could lose the Panda with the frequency that we did, and not see third base collapse.
Arias has also played in two postseasons and the Giants are well aware of that experience. Now, however, Duffy has played in a World Series himself, in addition to a tight pennant race leading up to that Fall Classic, so that argument is not as valid.
Just for the record, let’s look at the numbers for Arias:
Major League Baseball career stats: 434 games (321 w/SF, 91 w/Texas and 22 w/NY Mets)
994 at-bats/107 runs/267 hits/91 RBIs, 45 doubles/11 triples/6 home runs (5 of the HR coming in 2012, his first season with the Giants), 12 stolen bases/3 caught stealing 37 walks/138 Ks, .269/.298/.354/.652, 8 hit-by-pitch/11 sac hits/9 sac flies
Arias’ spring training stats for 2015 are not impressive: 15 games/6 hits/4 RBIs, 3 doubles/1 home run, .188/.235./.375/610
Finally, Arias’ postseason stats: 20 G/12 AB, .417/.417/.583/1.000 Nice, round OPS…
Matt Duffy’s career minor league stats look like this: Four levels, A-, A, A+ and AA; three seasons, 248 games/942 at-bats, 149 runs/286 hits/135 RBIs, 48 doubles/8 triples/13 home runs, 55 stolen bases/12 caught stealing 120 walks/145 Ks, .304/.387/.413/.800
Duffy’s 2015 spring training stats look like this: 18 games/39 at-bats/ 5 runs, 15 hits/ 9 RBIs, .385/.415/.718/1.133
It is clear that Duffy offers a better option as far as offense is concerned, and possibly as savvy of an attitude on the diamond as Arias as well. In terms of defense, Arias has the advantage in both versatility because he can play all infield positions, and because he has a .976 fielding percentage and a 4.13 range factor over nine innings. Duffy has not played third, and has a minor league fielding percentage of .960 with a range factor of 4.17. I couldn’t find Duffy’s range factor over nine innings, but the two seem comparable, based on the RF/9 and the RF itself.
Additionally, Arias has some extraordinary postseason numbers for a backup, so nothing is a given. That, however, sums up baseball: Nothing is a given. One guy plays until another shows something to the brass that warrants notice. Duffy’s line in the playoffs is .167/.167/.167.333, which is not so good. He would prefer that we look only at his World Series line in two at-bats: .500/.500/.500/1.000.
One other thing sticks out amongst those stats and that is the fact that in 994 at-bats, Arias has stolen 12 bases; in fewer at-bats, 942, Duffy has stolen 55 bags. The idea of playing National League style play leans toward Duffy, with his ability to advance on the base paths.
All comparisons aside, philosophically, how much should loyalty count over productivity and youth in major league baseball? Is it all comparisons, all loyalty, or some combination thereof?
What do you think? Should Bruce Bochy make a change?