What more can be said about this young man, this young rookie, this first rookie to win the Willie Mac Award, who has traveled a long road filled with "no's" to reach the majors and be batting third for a MLB team? I thought I would give it a try for this special player.
He and his Dad has published two nice pieces at the Player's Tribune, must reads for any Giants fan:
While looking at the photos, it struck me: he is our own Pete Rose. Not that he's a Hall of Famer, one level at a time, as his father noted, but that he's a player who did not have the raw gifts that many major leaguers have that made it easier for them to make the majors, but with grit, hard work, and a FU attitude (notice the reference to increased velocity when his zone was being squeezed by an ump in his Dad's article; that's what he's done this season twice chronicled, first time, hurt his ankle and the Cubs pitcher threw to the bag to force him to slide and cause pain, so he stole second base, second time, the Dodger's pitcher, their closer, Jansen, buzzed Matt, close to his head, so he smacked a single and then stole secondbase), he has reached where the vast vast majority of draftees never do, becoming a MLB starter, and for multiple seasons. And he gives many of us someone who many of us can live vicariously through, as he looks like a regular guy, seems like a regular guy (who would show off their cat like that?), a regular guy who nonetheless is doing good things on the baseball field.
Here are some facts that Alex Pavlovic reported in his article on Duffy's Willie Mac Award:
- Duffy has been much more than just an everyday player, however. He’s been an everyday force. He leads the National League with 89 hits since the All-Star break and his 46 extra base hits are the most by a Giants rookie since Chili Davis had 52 in 1982. Entering play Friday, the 24-year-old had a .298 average, 12 homers, 76 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a .770 OPS. He is second among NL rookies and 11th in the National League with 4.9 wins above replacement.
- Duffy is the sixth current Giant to win the Willie Mac Award, joining Matt Cain (2009), Ryan Vogelsong (2011), Buster Posey (2012), Pence (2013) and Madison Bumgarner (2014). He watched former winners come in from an outfield gate and realize the magnitude of the award.
- "As they were introducing everybody, I didn't realize the company I was in," he said. "I got to pause and think about that. It was pretty cool. I'm extremely honored."
What a lineup we will field if Duffy can just continue doing what he did this season. He played the second most games of any starter with 149 games (one behind Posey). His batting line tailed off in the second half, in spite of leading the NL in hits since ASB, but that appears related to his BABIP dropping month by month since July. Speed players like him can maintain BABIP's of .330+ and if he can do that next season, he'll have a good season again. I think that drop was related to his first full MLB season (he previously ended his full-time playing season in August) and that he will work hard to build the stamina necessary to be strong into October next season.
If he can keep up his August batting line, that would be good: .301/.341/.398/.739. That would be just short of average for a 3B, in the NL 3B hit .270/.329/.437/.766. Plus, his first half mirrored his second half for BA and OBP (and BABIP too), but where he was down was SLG (and thus ISO): from .462 to .397 SLG and 169 to 101 ISO. The good news is that his contact rate was in the good area, 85%+ in the second half, boding well for continuing good hitting. Meanwhile, he also was walking more later in the season, as well as stealing more bases.
Projecting for next season, he should be close to .300 BA and .335 OBP, around 150 ISO or .450 SLG, and thus around .780 OPS. 10-15 HR and 20-25 SB, with perhaps a breakout in SB to the 30+ range if he gets even more comfortable (he was 8-0 in the last two months). That would be great to get out of the #3 spot.
While that's not what the average #3 hitter in the NL hit, most sabermetric studies have found that, contrary to common, old school, beliefs, you don't want your best hitter there. In "The Book", TangoTiger and his co-authors argued that your 5th best hitter should hit in that spot, saving your best OBP to lead off, second best hitter in the 2nd spot, best hitter in the 4th spot (though if the top 2 are similar, better OBP #2, better SLG #4), best SLG in the 5th spot (and better than #3). Ideally, the #1, #2, and #4 spots are where your best hitters hit, obviously guy with least power among the three bats leadoff (has relatively more value for his OBP), and ideally the guy with most power among these three would bat 4th.
Duffy is easily among our good hitters, but he might not even make the top five. Right now we have Posey, Pence, Belt, Crawford, and Panik, plus Duffy to mix and match in the top 6 spots, and perhaps probably either Aoki or Pagan at leadoff. That's potentially a very strong lineup, top to bottom, and that don't include whoever we end up as the third OF.