Christopher Ellis Duffy
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 5' 10", Weight 180 lb.
- School South Mountain Community College, Arizona State University
- High School Mountain Ridge High School
- Debut April 7, 2005
- Final Game May 14, 2009
- Born April 20, 1980 in Brattleboro, VT USA
Undrafted out of high school, outfielder Chris Duffy went to South Mountain Community College. In his second year there in 2000, he stole 57 bases (the most in any junior college that year in the US) and was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 43th round of the 2000 amateur draft. Instead of signing, he opted to go to Arizona State University, where he hit .373/~.435/.483 and tied for the Pac-10 Conference lead with 20 steals (even with Brian Barre) in 25 tries despite being slowed by a knee injury. He was named to the All-Conference team. The Pittsburgh Pirates picked him in the 8th round of the 2001 amateur draft. He was signed by scout Ted Williams and made his pro debut that summer.
Duffy hit .317/.440/.421 for the 2001 Williamsport Crosscutters and stole 30 in 35 tries. He tied Angel Pagan for the stolen base lead in the New York-Penn League, led the loop with 17 times hit by pitch and tied Kevin Youkilis for 6th in the league in batting average. He made the league All-Star team but was not named among the top 20 prospects in the circuit.
In 2002, Chris put up a .301/.353/.425 line for the Lynchburg Hillcats, with 22 steals in 29 tries. He struck out 101 times and scored 85 runs. He finished 8th in the Carolina League in batting average, made the All-Star team and was voted the 14th-best prospect in the league according to Baseball America.
2003 saw him hit .273/.350/.355 for the Altoona Curve, with 34 stolen bases and 12 times caught. He cut his strikeouts to 78, scored 84 times, but only hit 1 homer after 10 a year earlier. In 2004, Duffy returned to Altoona in Pittsburgh's take-it-slow approach to prospects and hit .309/.378/.439, swiping 32 more bags in 40 tries, scoring 84 runs and homering 8 times. Baseball America rated him the best defensive outfielder in the Eastern League and he led EL outfielders in fielding percentage (.993). His 17 times getting plunked tied Scott Tousa for the league lead and he was 7th in batting average.
In 2005, Duffy began the year with the Indianapolis Indians but Chris spent two weeks with the Bucs before he played for Indianapolis after Jose Castillo went on the disabled list. For Indianapolis, he hit .308/.358/.464 with only 17 steals in 26 tries; Indianapolis would win the International League pennant but Chris was called back to Pittsburgh. For the Buccos, he stepped in to fill the gap in center created by Tike Redman's poor performance and did a great job - .341/.385/.429. He was benched in August suddenly for dehydration, then was diagnosed with a torn hamstring shortly thereafter, sidelining him and creating a job in center for long-time minor league teammate Nate McLouth.
Chris was slated to be the Pirates' starting center fielder without question for 2006 as too many people paid attention to the fine MLB stats, ignoring the sample size (39 games), seriousness of his injury and the other options in center, such as McLouth or Jason Bay. Duffy began the season slowly, hitting .194/.255/.276 in 31 games despite being sat in favor of McLouth against top pitchers to allow him to adjust. Unfortunately, he may have been adjusting too much as Jim Tracy had told him to change his swing and approach in spring training, encouraging him to shorten his swing to cut back on strikeouts and hit more grounders and fewer liners and flies. This became the commonly-accepted explanation for Duffy's decline, though again sample size and injury issues needed to be considered. It is also clear that his 2005 MLB campaign was an aberration. On the other hand, that start was not in line with his minor league production either.
Duffy was assigned to Indianapolis on May 14th, beginning a weird series of events. He refused to report to the AAA team. Reasons given in the press initially focused on anger at management's tinkering with his swing (based on quotes given by Duffy), though Chris later denied this and said he had lost his joy in playing baseball and contemplated not returning. It was clear that the demotion was not the major issue, though. He did not speak directly to the press during this episode, nor to team officials. The Pirates placed him on the restricted list on May 18th, denying him income. Almost a month later, Duffy decided to report to Indianapolis. In the meantime, McLouth had struggled as the regular CF and in turn lost his job to converted 3B Jose Bautista. In 26 games back with the Indians, Duffy hit .349/.415/.509 and stole 13 of 16. He returned to the Pirates and became the everyday center fielder (Bautista moving to right or third) and leadoff hitter. After a rough first week and a half of August, he had a very good September to maintain his inconsistency. He finished the year at .255/.317/.338 with 26 steals in 27 tries. He had the best steal percentage in Major League Baseball, edging Ichiro Suzuki. Pittsburgh wanted Duffy to play in winter ball but he instead opted to spend the off-season on strength training.
Duffy spent most of the 2007 campaign with the Pirates, hitting .249/.313/.357 with 13 steals in 17 tries in 70 games. His season was cut short by an ankle injury and left shoulder surgery. He spent 2008 in the minors as he was injured and McLouth took over center field for the Bucs and became an All-Star; Duffy batted .263/.338/.439 in 18 games for Altoona and .275/.339/.392 in 12 for Indianapolis.
Duffy joined the Mazatlan Deer for the winter of 2008 but left after 3 games without notifying his team; he bought a plane ticket and returned home. He said that he was having trouble with the food.
- "He stabilized things defensively in center field and did a heck of a job leading off. Those were two less things we had to worry about." - Lloyd McClendon