Duffy provides spark in pinch to jump-start rally
SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants utility infielder Matt Duffy came through with the biggest hit of his young career on Saturday night in Game 4 of the World Series. It shouldn't come as a surprise, as Duffy is a very solid contact hitter in the mold of his teammate, Joe Panik.
With his team trailing Kansas City by three runs in the third inning, manager Bruce Bochy called upon Duffy to pinch-hit leading off the bottom half of the frame. After seeing several pitches, Duffy came through with a single and scored the second run of the Giants' eventual 11-4 rout. Duffy's single may have been the catalyst that turns the World Series. It certainly changed the momentum of the game.
Duffy is a baseball package to be unwrapped when consistent "small-ball" skills are needed. He is the type of player who can provide dependable and consistent skills. Duffy hits the ball and doesn't strike out often. He can work a count and take a walk. Duffy can bunt. He can hit behind a runner in a hit-and-run situation. Duffy can set the table. He can run. Duffy is capable of doing what he does best -- getting on base and scoring runs.
Duffy is a product of Lakewood High School in Long Beach, Calif. He was a .409 hitter as a junior and had a .380 average as a senior. Duffy went on to play his college ball at California State University, Long Beach. That's the same university that produced infielders Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria and Danny Espinosa. That's pretty solid company.
Starting as a utility infielder at Long Beach, Duffy went on to assume a regular role in the lineup. Earning some Big West Conference honors, he played third base, shortstop and second base.
The Giants selected Duffy in the 18th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He impressed scouts by having an outstanding Cape Cod League season to add to his resume prior to the Draft.
At 23, Duffy is slight of build and could certainly use a few more pounds to help him retain strength and stamina. He's 6-foot-2, but he weighs only 170 pounds.
Duffy is the type of player who is a pest to the opposition. Virtually every time I've watched him play, he has the same, consistent approach. Duffy makes pitchers work by taking them deep in counts. He has a very good feel for the strike zone and doesn't get himself out with poor hitting decisions. Duffy simply doesn't chase bad pitches. Providing quality at-bats, he has the ability to make adjustments. In Duffy's approach to hitting, he's very much like his infield teammate, Panik.
Duffy has flown through the Giants' system. Beginning at Class A Short-Season Salem-Keizer in 2012, he hit .247 in 216 plate appearances. Duffy struck out only 22 times. That's a key statistic, as his ability to put the bat on the ball has repeated itself every year of his brief three-season career.
Duffy's batting average has been good ever since that rookie season. In 2013, he hit a combined .303 playing at Class A Augusta and Class A Advanced San Jose. Duffy stole 25 bases in 32 attempts, showing that his speed is well used. He knows how to run. Duffy doesn't have much power, but his ability to generate pressure on the opposition is a tremendous asset.
This season, Duffy played at Double-A Richmond, where he hit .332 and stole another 20 bases in 24 attempts. On May 22, he made his Major League debut with the Giants, where he has appeared at second base, shortstop and third base. Duffy's infield versatility is an important component of his game.
Duffy made only 42 total errors in his 1,039 chances playing in the Minor Leagues. He has good range, quick hands and a solid arm. As reliable as Duffy is with a bat in his hand, so too is he in the field.
While the final score of Game 4 of the World Series may appear to be a bit lopsided, it might not have ended that way had Duffy not jump-started the rally with his leadoff pinch-hit single in the third inning.