Mets finally rip Zach Duke

Posted on September 15, 2010 by

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The Mets pounded out 14 hits and 9 runs in Tuesday’s win over the Pirates. That in itself was a noticeable feat, given how poor the offense has been for the team in the second half of the season. It was just the 14th time in 57 games that the Mets scored five or more runs in a game since the All-Star break. But it was not the most impressive feat of the night for the team.

For just the second time in eight games, the Mets hung a loss on Pirates pitcher Zach Duke. Ordinarily, that would not be a very significant thing, as in a small sample pitchers can look good against any team. But since Duke made his debut in 2005, the Pirates have been a poor team and Duke is 44-69. And the Mets have generally been good. It’s not quite one of the world’s greatest mysteries, but it has been frustrating how a slop-tossing lefty on a lousy team has owned the Mets.

Duke throws a fastball, slider, curve and change. At an average speed of 87.4 mph, Duke has one of the slowest fastballs in the majors. For a point of comparison, knuckleballer R.A. Dickey averages 84.1 with his fastball. This is the fifth consecutive season that Duke’s fastball has a double-digit negative Pitch Type Value, meaning it is a way below-average pitch.

The only one of his four pitches which is a consistently plus offering is his changeup. This year, Duke’s change is 1.03 runs above-average. He throws his change 14.1 percent of the time. Duke’s curve, which he throws 18.2 percent of the time, is slightly worse than his change is good, at -1.6 runs. And his slider has been awful at -8.0 runs.

Combine Duke’s lousy stuff with the fact that the Pirates are 379-574 (.398) since 2005 and we have the perfect storm of a borderline pitcher on a crappy team, one that you might expect the Mets to have destroyed, especially when they were 62 games above .500 from 2006-2008. Instead, here’s how Duke has fared against them each year:

2005: 1-0, 0.00 ERA
2006: 1-0, 2.70 ERA
2007: No appearances
2008: 0-1, 6.75 ERA
2009: 1-0, 1.29 ERA
2010: 1-1, 6.97 ERA

In eight games against the Mets, Duke is 4-2 with five Quality Starts. And only one of those was a wimpy QS, just barely making the requirements. Here are his numbers in those five games:

35 IP, 5 ER, 6 BB and 19 Ks

Now, this is from a guy who has a lifetime 1.93 K/BB ratio and a 4.52 ERA. So, how did he manage this? Duke had his success versus the Mets mostly on his ability to neutralize Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. Here is how he performed versus Los Dos Carlos in his career:

vs. Beltran – 3-for-19 for a .559 OPS
vs. Delgado – 2-for-13 for a .368 OPS

And while Duke was handcuffing those two, David Wright did not have the success you might expect against the soft-tossing lefty, either. Versus a pitcher he should by all rights destroy, Wright has an .833 OPS with just 1 HR in 24 PA.

Angel Pagan has had the most success versus Duke of any Met with at least 10 PA. Pagan has a 1.056 OPS, which seems very nice but it is just the 39th-best mark against the Pittsburgh hurler.

In Tuesday night’s win, Pagan had two hits, Jose Reyes had two hits and a walk, Beltran went 1-2 with a homer and Wright went 0-2. Overall, Duke allowed 9 H (including 2 HR) and 7 ER in 3.1 IP. The Mets finally hit him like the rest of the league does.

How bad of a pitcher is Duke? Since 2005, among starters with 150 games, Duke has the second-worst OPS+ mark at 118. His winning percentage of .389 is the worst mark. He just is not a very good pitcher. Finally, the Mets added to his woes last night.

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Posted in: Perspectives