Those of you who have followed The Simpsons during it’s 60-or-so year run (seemingly) are probably familiar with Duffman, the ridiculous Duff Beer mascot who has hip thrusted his way into our hearts over the years. Between his partying ways and his depth of character, you could think of him as the absentee father of Johnny Manziel or the Kardashians. Hmmm… he doesn’t seem quite so likable anymore. Why did he have to inflict such pain and torture on the rest of the world?
Speaking of torture, it must’ve been an especially tough offseason for San Francisco Giants third baseman Matt Duffy. After allowing longtime starter Pablo Sandoval to walk in free agency, the Giants decided to trade for an aging player coming off of a 4 homer season who was out of MLB the previous season (Casey McGehee) to man the hot corner rather than giving Duffy a shot to win the job out of spring training. It would be like Grey deciding to take a leave of absence and bringing Matthew Berry in to replace him. Predictably, the McGehee experiment didn’t work out so well, and Duffy finally took over the starting 3B job after McGehee was designed for assignment on May 24th. Let’s take a look at Duffy’s MLB stats thus far (2014 stats included):
While Duffy is known for being an above average defensive player, it’s understandable why the Giants might’ve been uncomfortable giving Duffy a starting role at the beginning of the season. In his first taste of the big leagues last season, Duffy did his best Skip Schumaker impression, displaying no power or speed while only walking once in 64 plate appearances.
However, it’s been a different story in 2015. His above average ability to make contact has translated into a .306 batting average this season (19th in MLB among qualified players), and he’s provided a solid-enough combination of power and speed to provide $14.3 worth of value according to the Razzball player rater, which currently places him 9th among 3B and 8th among 2B (where he’s eligible in most formats) in terms of fantasy value.
In fact, Duffy’s overall offensive skill set is reminiscent of another well-known and universally owned fantasy asset. You know what’s coming next. That’s right – comp time! Today’s player comp is none other than Kansas City Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. Let’s take a look at a few tables rapid-fire style comparing some key offensive statistics between the two players, including some batted ball and plate discipline data:
Well, all righty then. That’s a lot of data to digest. For those of you who have stayed with me this long, here are a few observations on these players:
• The high BABIPs (.352 and .353 respectively) might scream regression for Duffy and Hosmer, but that might not necessarily be the case. Above average line drive rates naturally lead to a higher percentage of base hits, and take a look at the direction of the batted balls from these players, particularly Duffy. Hitting between 32.3%-35.1% of his batted balls to each third of the field means that opposing teams are unable to effectively employ defensive shifts against him, his quality of contact further suggests that his high BABIP is not just a result of good luck.
• The power upsides of both players are limited by their high ground ball rates, and Hosmer appears to have a slight edge in the power category based on the numbers. However, Hosmer’s average fly ball distance of 286.28 feet is 97th out of 272 qualified players while Duffy’s 295.74 ft mark ranks 42nd in MLB, ahead of sluggers such as Nolan Arenado, Albert Pujols, and Todd Frazier.
Another factor to consider when evaluating Duffy is his remarkable consistency. Here are his monthly splits for the 2015 season:
With the exception of his stint as a part-time player at the beginning of the season, Duffy has produced a batting average of .313 or higher in each month as a full-time player, with consistent power, speed, and plate discipline numbers throughout the season. His counting stats have balanced out nicely as well, as his 58 runs and 59 RBI seem to obviously indicate.
Duffy certainly isn’t the flashiest player around. He’ll never hit 40 homers in a single season or rack up huge steal totals either (though he does have some upside there). He’s a boring, often overlooked player in the mold of Eric Hosmer and Kole Calhoun – a high floor player who contributes across-the-board without truly excelling in any one particular area. When sexier options like Yasiel Puig and Jorge Soler underperform and put your team in a hole, players like Duffy are the glue that patch the holes and hold it all together. Believe in the Duffman – oh yeah!