San Francisco Giants: What’s Up with Matt Duffy?
It’s been a rough second season for Matt Duffy. San Francisco Giants third baseman hasn’t hit for the average or power that displayed in 2015, as he appears to be struggling with that age-old tradition, the sophomore slump.
After batting .295 in his rookie season, his average is at .244 after his 2-hit game Monday night. It was down to .233 just a few days ago. And he only has 2 home runs and 11 RBI, while spending much of the season batting third. His OPS is an unsightly .629—133 points below last year’s mark.
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There is nothing unique about a player having a bad month or a bad half-season, only to balance out the stat sheet during another part of the season.
There is a sign of life: in his past four games, Duffy is 5-for-13. He has walked once in that time, while not striking out at all. But it’s not like he has been on a power surge (just one extra-base hit) or has been producing a lot of runs.
So it could be the start of a Duffy revival, or it just might be a slight uptick in base hits.
So, what is exactly going on with Duffy? (Before I go on, I must give a nod to fellow Giants blogger Grant Brisby for inspiring this in-depth look…but this is a slightly different take.)
There are some positives. Duffy’s average exit velocity — the speed at which the ball leaves his bat — was around 87 mph in 2015, and it is still in the same vicinity. He already has half as many walks as he had in 2015. And last year he struck out once every 6.0 at-bats. This year he is whiffing once every 7.8 at-bats.
But in looking at Duffy’s pitch breakdown on the site, Baseball Savant, it appears that pitchers are exploiting Duffy’s struggles with the outside pitch. Last year, Duffy batted .271 on those pitches. So far this year, he only has two hits on pitches in that region (neither of which, interestingly, came off of low-and-outside pitches in the strike zone). He’s also generally hitting worse on pitches elsewhere in the strike zone. But still, his weakness on the outside part of the plate is being exposed.
Can Duffy adjust and pull himself out of this funk? Most likely. But in the meantime, Manager Bruce Bochy should consider dropping him in the order to take the pressure off of Duffy, considering the second-year player, who was never a top prospect, is trying to work through his problems while batting in the most important spot in a lineup that features Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt and Joe Panik.
Duffy—and the Giants—would be better served if he were dropped in the lineup for a while, at least until he gets back to being the .295 hitter who grabbed hold of a starting position last year.
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The team would also be well served to trade for another big bat to stick into the middle of the lineup (as outlined last week), but it’s probably too early for General Manager Bobby Evans to focus much energy on that at this point in the season.