Let's get in the wayback machine and travel all the way back to March, 2015, when Matt Duffy was a kid who had never played Triple-A and was known primarily for his brilliant baserunning in a postseason game the Giants lost anyway. This was an actual headline on this website:
Matt Duffy vs. Joaquin Arias vs. Ehire Adrianza
Avocados vs. Taco Bell guacamole vs. greenish mayonnaise. A puppy vs. a bag of spiders vs. a puppy-sized spider. It's hard to imagine that headline making sense at any point of our lives, but I promise you it made sense last year.
A month later, there was a poll on the site:
Hey, almost a third of you nailed it! But more of us figured that Duffy was a utility player who could fill in, not a long-term solution.
Then, approximately 43 hours later, we were all used to the idea of Matt Duffy as a franchise cornerstone.
It felt that sudden, at least. Duffy was inserted into the starting lineup, and then he hit and hit and hit. After the year was over, the idea of him being the centerpiece in a trade for Jose freaking Fernandez was only moderately absurd. And his emergence is one of the biggest reasons -- if not the biggest reason -- the Giants have both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. He's subsidizing the Giants' big-ticket items for the next few years. Thanks, CBA!
If he continues being this good, that is! I'm not sure why we think it's a guarantee. We know that baseball can suck outstanding hitters into its gears. Like, say, the guy who played third base for seven seasons before Duffy got here. Pablo Sandoval was up, he was down, he was benched, he was up again, he was down ... nothing was guaranteed. Nothing is ever guaranteed in baseball, and now we're ready to anoint Duffy a cornerstone after 573 at-bats.
Sure are! I've been asked this question a lot over the winter and through the spring, and my answer is always the same:
That October was just 17 at-bats, and this is all to point out that we've never seen him suffer through a horrific, extended slump. On July 2, he went 0-for-4 against the Marlins, and on July 3, he went 0-for-4 against the Nationals. On September 22 and 23 against the Padres, he was 0-for-8 over two games. And those were the only times all season that Matt Duffy went two straight starts without a hit.
Is that rare? Eyeballing it, that seems rare. Brandon Crawford had a lot of consecutive starts without a hit. Buster Posey had a few. But there's Matt Duffy, getting at least one single most of the time. He started slow, then was freakishly steady in May, June, July, August, and September before slowing down again. We've seen Brandon Belt and Posey get unfathomably hot and carry the team, but Duffy was always hanging around, doing his thing.
He reminds me of José Peterson, really.
You could see the ".290" come off his bat with every opposite-field single or double into the gap. Our eyeballs are telling us that Duffy is here to stay.
The projection systems are, too. Marcel has him at .291/.335/.425, which, combined with his defense and adjusting for AT&T Park, would be a marvelous player. ZiPS is a touch more skeptical, putting him at .275/.322/.403, but they still have him as a four-win player. The Giants found their third baseman in a coat pocket they didn't think to check, and now they have him for years.
And while I'm happy that the statistics indicate he's not going to regress, I think he can get better. Consider his career walk rates:
San Jose: 6.1%
And his career strikeout rates:
San Jose: 13.9%
The San Jose numbers are the closest to his MLB numbers, but he was with them for just 26 games. Usually, his strikeouts and walks are about even. Now, this might speak to the difficulty of hitting major league pitchers, and it's never wise to assume a player will eventually match his best season in the minors.
But I still think there's room for growth with his plate discipline, and that the available evidence suggests that's where he can get better. It's not like you noticed the lack of walks, not when he was making such consistent, hard contact. It's not like he was flailing at pitches out of the zone, or this is a flaw that has to be addressed. But the OBP can go up. He's done it before.
Really, the biggest problem I have with Matt Duffy is that he makes people care less about my deceased, beloved, morbidly overweight cat.
Everyone's all "Skeeter this" and "Skeeter that," but my cat was 30 pounds and the size of a guitar! Did anyone care? No. This is still an outrage.
Regardless, I'm a believer in Duffy continuing his surprising play from last year. He'll probably never win a Gold Glove with Nolan Arenado around, at least until the Rockies trade him to the Twins or something, but he plays Gold Glove-quality defense, which is impressive for someone who's brand new to the position. And he seems to know how to hit.
Matt Duffy, 2016 projection
He sure seems to know how to hit. It's about time something broke the Giants' way.