Back in April, I wrote something titled "Don't worry about Matt Duffy's slump." Over the next 19 games, he hit .338/.392/.451 with four doubles and three triples. I dusted my hands off, as smug and self-satisfied as a blogger could be, and assumed that was the end of that. Duffy was going to be excellent again.
Since then, he has just five hits in 40 at-bats, including a cool 0-for-his-last-17. He hit a ball that traveled roughly two feet on Thursday night. It was not a hit.
So if you're looking at the selective endpoints, Duffy was awful, then he was great, and then he was awful again. We just need to be patient, and everything is going to even out. Small samples are forever the worst. Except there's something different about this slump. Three times in the last series against the Padres, Duffy lined out to Matt Kemp, who was playing close to the foul line. Bad luck, right?
Kind of. But with the help of Baseball Savant, let's look at Duffy's spray chart from this year:
If he pulls it, it's on the ground. Over and over and over again. If he hits it to the outfield, it's probably down the line. Kemp didn't get lucky; the Padres employ scouts.
If there's good news it's that he was capable of pulling the ball last year, and how. So this isn't a case of the league saying "Waaaaaait a sec" and adjusting. It's about Duffy not doing what he did last year. Which is also the bad news.
A look at the plate discipline stats doesn't give us any answers. If anything, they should be encouraging. He's swinging at fewer pitches out of the strike zone. He's swinging and missing a lot less, and he's swinging less, period. His walk rate is up, and his strikeout rate is down, and both of them have enough plate appearances by now to be relatively stable.
He's just making far weaker contact, especially to the left side.
If you're looking for answers from me, hi, my name is Grant and I make stupid jokes here, thanks for checking out the site. It could be that Duffy needs a little swing and miss in his approach. Maybe those pulled doubles and home runs last year were a result of him guessing right more often, which was ugly when it didn't work and beautiful when it did. I don't know, I'll leave that to Sir Bam Bam, in whom we trust.
Still, when Joe Panik was slumping, it was pretty clear that he was Joe Panik, and that he was just miserably unlucky. Thursday night's 4-for-5 was validation of that, especially with a cheap hit mixed in for good measure. Duffy's slump is a different beast, though. It's an unrecognizable Duffy, and we got pretty attached to last year's version.
My gut says "Hey, please eat something after all that coffee, help." It also says, "Duffy will be fine." He's in the middle of something (not unlike Posey, who is usually one of the best hitters in baseball), and all hitters find themselves in the middle of something during the season, forced to hack their way out.
This feels like a different kind of slump than we're used to, but the good news is that it's happening to a player who is still helping the team with his defense and baserunning. When the hits start falling -- with some occasional line drives to left, hopefully -- he'll be the complete player the Giants were counting on.
It's just not something we can assume will happen at this point. We're a fifth of the way through the season, and Matt Duffy isn't hitting a lick. It's not time to freak out. It is time to look around nervously, though.