KC Royals: 1 biggest surprise, 1 biggest disappointment from the rotation

Danny Duffy #30 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Danny Duffy #30 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The KC Royals are off to a roaring start in 2021 and the starting rotation has played a hand in the hot start to the season.

It might seem hard to believe, but the Kansas City Royals are atop the standings in both the American League Central and the American League overall. It’s been a terrific start for Mike Matheny’s ball club and Royals fans sure are enjoying the ride.

The starting rotation was thought of as a weakness heading into the season but it hasn’t been as bad as advertised. In fact, it’s had one very surprising player and another rather disappointing player to this point in the season.

Danny Duffy has been the biggest surprise from the KC Royals’ rotation.

Entering the 2021 campaign, Royals fans weren’t sure what to make of Danny Duffy. The 32-year-old lefty has been with the team since they took him in the third round of the 2007 MLB Draft and he’s a fan favorite, but his production over the past few years has been disappointing, to say the least.

The consensus on Duffy to begin the year was that he’d likely start off in the rotation and then would find himself in the bullpen if he struggled. He’s only made four starts so far, but Duffy is making sure he remains in the Royals’ rotation by pitching lights out to start the season.

Through four starts, Duffy has a sparkling 0.39 ERA through 23 innings pitched and has gone 3-1 on the mound. Win-loss stats are often considered worthless in baseball, but it’s a record worth noting for Duffman.

Duffy has given up just one run through his four starts and has gone at least five innings in all of his games. He’s pitched at least six innings in three of them and struck out at least five batters in all of his outings (he’s had 16 strikeouts in his past two games). He’s been on fire!

Whether or not Duffy can keep this kind of production up is unknown but it’s been fun watching him dominate. He’s struck out 27 batters while walking just six and really has flourished early in the year. If he keeps this kind of production up throughout the season, the Royals might end up bringing him back for another year, given that he’s playing on the final year of his contract.

Brad Keller has been the biggest disappointment from the KC Royals’ rotation.

There were some lofty expectations for Brad Keller this year and why shouldn’t there have been? The guy was lights out in the shortened 2020 season, posting a 2.47 ERA through 54.2 innings thrown. Of course people expected him to be the ace of the staff after a season like that, even if it was in a shortened season.

Sadly, Keller has underwhelmed through five starts. He’s currently sitting with a 9.00 ERA through 18 innings and has been hit rather hard in several of his outings. He gave up six runs through 1.1 innings in his first start, four runs through 3.1 innings in his second start, and five runs in 1.2 innings in his fourth start. There’s been more bad than good so far with Keller, but the season is still young and Royals fans believe that he can still turn things around.

There’s still a lot of baseball to be played but it’s hard to argue that Danny Duffy has been the biggest surprise for the rotation while Brad Keller has easily been the biggest disappointment. Jakob Junis was someone I also considered for the biggest surprise considering he wasn’t even supposed to be a starter, but Duffy’s 0.39 ERA through four starts was hard to overlook.

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What do you think, Royals fans? Which pitcher has surprised you the most and who has disappointed you the most?