Today, Baggarly wrote about Matt Duffy, from a nice interview he did with him, noting that some might question whether Duffy can repeat his 2015 season. So I went into his splits and dug around and see what I could noodle either way.
I wasn't looking for this, but I noticed that he had a huge split in 2015:
|vs RHP as RHB||139||456||426||22||77||.310||.348||.455||.803||194||.360||110||129|
|vs LHP as RHB||68||156||147||8||19||.252||.295||.347||.642||51||.272||69||75|
|vs LH Starter||43||185||175||8||27||.257||.293||.371||.665||65||.290||74||85|
|vs RH Starter||106||427||398||22||69||.312||.352||.452||.804||180||.357||111||123|
As you can see, he hit RHP way better than he did LHP. And he had a very high BABIP vs. RHP while having a pretty bad BABIP vs. LHP. Initial knee jerk reaction is that he's going to regress and not hit as well in 2016, since he had the high BABIP, plus hit so poorly against LHP, which he should hit well, and thus one could reason that his RHP could regress to be lower than his LHP, since he was an unheralded amateur, drafted late, and expected to hit like he did against LHP and not like how he did against RHP. So that got me curious about how he did before, though there is not a lot of data.
Here is how he did in 2014 (including his MLB stats):
|vs RHP as RHB||108||308||268||33||56||.302||.378||.399||.777||107|
|vs LHP as RHB||73||173||159||10||24||.358||.399||.465||.864||74|
Against RHP, he had a BABIP of .369, while against LHP, he had a BABIP of .412, showing that he had hit better against LHP in 2014, but in any case, whether RHP or LHP, had a very high BABIP, suggesting that his hitting and speed could possibly support a high BABIP in the majors.
And if you look at the original table, he hit well against older pitchers as well, though not as well as he did against younger pitchers. I wish now that I had left it in there, but it is amazingly close to what he hit in the majors in 2015, perhaps it's a stat I should look at more for players in the high minors:
Vs Older Pitchers 2014: .304/.366/.392/.758, .375 BABIP, 1 HR, 25 XBH/104 hits (24% XBH)
MLB Pitchers In 2015: .295/.334/.428/.762, .336 BABIP, 12 HR, 46 XBH/169 hits (27% XBH)
Looks like the 10-15 pounds he added last off-season helped as he said it did. Baggarly reports that he added another 20 pounds this season (coincidentally, apparently Blackburn had noted in AA that the doubles Duffy was hitting would be homers if he would add 20 pounds; I guess he knows his baseball). So that would explain the jump in ISO from 88 to 133 between those two stat lines, when normally a drop would be expected (especially because he went from being -1.7 years younger than the league in 2014 to -4.2 years younger in 2015), because of the improved competition.
|vs RHP as RHB||99||378||331||40||51||.296||.378||.456||.834||151|
|vs LHP as RHB||32||76||62||12||6||.339||.446||.371||.817||23|
Against RHP, he had a BABIP of .327, while against LHP, he had a BABIP of .375, which again supports the notion that Duffy can hit for a high BABIP, plus here he again hit better against RHP than LHP, using OPS, though he hit for a better batting average and OBP against LHP.
Summary Thoughts on Duffman's Hitting
Nothing definitive, but
- It appears that he can sustain a high BABIP vs. both LHP and RHP, as that is what he did in the minors. Speed and hard hit balls accounts for high BABIP, so the fact that he was able to do that in the minors at least suggests that it's possible that he could do it in the majors. So this suggests that his poor hitting vs. LHP is more of an outlier than his hitting RHP well. Another consideration for LHP is that because there is usually so many more AB's against RHP than LHP, SSS can greatly affect a hitter's splits year to year, resulting in more volatility in his LHP results.
- However, I would note that I've not seen any study that found any relationship between BABIP in the minors and BABIP in the majors. My supposition is that given that pitchers in the minors are not as accomplished the BABIP a player accomplishes in the minors will generally be a ceiling on how good he can be in the majors. But I believe that there can be development as a hitter rises that can help him hit better as he rises, so I don't believe that hard and fast, but more as a possible ceiling to watch out for, kind of 80/20-ish.
- As well, it's a moving target because even a hitter's BABIP suffers from SSS, because it takes around three full seasons of AB's to get a good idea of what he's capable of, and Duffy didn't even have three years of minor league data. Plus, it's a moving target because he might be developing faster than the pitchers.
- Still, while nothing definitive, I think this data suggests that he can sustain high BABIP against both LHP and RHP, which would mean that he has upside to his LHP hitting, at least 60 points upside, and won't lose it all back against RHP, which would mean that he can sustain his 2015 hitting, if not improve if he can keep up the RHP while upping his LHP.
- It is not out of left field that he might hit better against RHP than LHP. He had a higher OPS in 2013 against RHP, even more so considering he had a much higher BABIP against LHP than RHP. There have been hitters who have reverse splits and hit better against pitchers who throw the same way they hit, though these type of hitters are rare. Of course, no way to prove it other than to play ball and see how he does.
- Based on how he hit against older pitchers in 2014 (and he did similarly in 2013), it suggests that he could handle older, more experienced pitchers, as he rose a level. How well he could handle, so far, he has been able to keep up the good hitting with each level the past couple of seasons. That, to me, suggests that his 2015 hitting is a repeatable performance. Of course, I've not seen any studies that show such a relationship, but it makes sense to me.
So, overall, it appears to me that Duffy seems capable of repeating 2015's performance. He had a high BABIP, particularly against RHP, and while .360 is generally not a repeatable performance in the majors, especially against your same side hitting, he has had a high BABIP in the minors, against both RHP and LHP. Thus while his BABIP might drop some against vs. RHP, it could go much higher vs. LHP, and counter balance each other. And he has hit better against RHP before. On top of that, he has put on more muscle and gained more experienced - he's a grizzled vet now relatively - and that should be to his advantage as well, boosting hopes of a sustained or improved BABIP and batting line.
Nothing definitive, but something I think makes me feel better about Duffy repeating his 2015 performance than just believing that he can do it.