How unlikely candidate Matt Duffy has ignited Cubs offense

To say no one saw this coming would be inaccurate.

Sure, Matt Duffy being a major contributor to Cubs success is something not many people would have predicted before the season.

But Duffy revealed after Wednesday's win over the Dodgers that the Cubs had been chasing him since before the 2020 season and he considered joining the team last year.

"The front office staff just kind of loved my ability to make adjustments and put the bat on the ball and not try to do too much and keep it simple," Duffy said. "They felt that fit really well. They were the first team we heard from (last winter)."

So actually, it was the Cubs who thought this might be possible. Duffy has gone from a longshot to make the roster in spring training to helping ignite the offensive turnaround. He's currently second on the team in both batting average (.308) and on-base percentage (.429).

Duffy made Wednesday's series sweep possible by delivering an RBI single with two out in the 11th inning to tie the game. He then stole second and scored the winning run on Anthony Rizzo's single.

Duffy doesn't bring much power to the plate, with 3 doubles and no home runs so far.

But his overall game is reminiscent of Ben Zobrist, a key piece for the 2016 World Series team. Zobrist made good contact, sprayed the ball to all fields and could play multiple positions.

In recent weeks, Duffy has played a lot of third base, while Kris Bryant takes up residency in the outfield. But Duffy has also played first base, second base and started the first game of the Dodgers series in left field.

As the Cubs struggled to recreate the 2016 magic, it was always obvious they missed Zobrist and leadoff hitter Dexter Fowler. Now Duffy comes along and the Cubs offense perked up quickly after a historically bad start. It's an interesting phenomenon.

"Huge impact," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I think the contact's been great. He's a baseball player, man. He does a lot of things well and is very consistent. I thought this is exactly who he was in the spring. Hitting the ball all over the field, having a professional at-bat."

After Wednesday's game, the Long Beach, Calif. native mentioned how much he appreciates being appreciated by the Cubs.

"It's huge for me, especially with the way the game of baseball has been going the last four or five years (toward power hitters)," he said. "I don't feel I have to change and be somebody I'm not, I can just focus on being the best version of me and they appreciate that. It's a really good feeling."

Duffy, 30, had a nice start to his career. He played in the 2014 World Series for San Francisco, then finished second to Bryant in 2015 rookie of the year voting.

After that, he had a difficult recovery from a heel injury and the only other time he played in more than 100 games was 2018 with Tampa Bay. He spent most of 2020 at the New York Yankees alternate site.

"There were a lot of questions if I was ever going to play again," he said. "I think that was simply because I think I got an inaccurate timetable for return (from the heel injury). Then have just battled some soft tissue injuries since that have been extremely frustrating.

"But with it, I've learned a lot about how to take care of my body and prepare for games. Keep myself ready in more of a 'prehab' sense. So definitely frustrating, but I've learned a lot along the way. I have no regrets. I'm happy to be where I'm at."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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