Non-Tender Candidate: Zach Duke

Last year, Zach Duke represented the Pirates at the All-Star Game, but after another poor outing, he has become a non-tender candidate. The 27-year-old leads the league in losses for the second consecutive season and while won-loss records don't mean much, Duke has also posted a career-high 5.78 ERA in 141.2 innings.

Duke makes $4.3MM this year, which means he won't be cheap if the Pirates offer arbitration. Even a modest raise would give the lefty a $5MM salary in 2011, which is roughly what Vicente Padilla, Brett Myers and Doug Davis signed for last winter. The Pirates will have to be prepared to pay Duke as well as established starters coming off better seasons if they offer arbitration.

But in spite of the ugly ERA and loss total, there's some hope for Duke. His 5.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 are respectable and he appears to be the victim of bad luck. No MLB pitcher who has as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of batted balls fall in behind him for hits. Opponents have a .351 average on balls in play against Duke, which is well above his career mark. With better luck and potentially better defense, he could have a lower ERA.

It's also worth noting that only one MLB pitcher with as many innings as Duke has seen a higher percentage of fly balls leave the yard. Home runs haven't been a massive problem for Duke before, and if his homer levels return to normal, the rest of his numbers would look better, too. At this point, his stats don't look good, and we can't simply write this season off in the name of bad luck. Duke has not pitched well and his manager appears to be losing confidence in him.

The Brewers had interest in Duke last winter, according to FOX Sports. They're one of many teams likely to add starters this winter, so Duke would draw some interest if the Pirates non-tender him. Uncertainty surrounds Pittsburgh's 2011 rotation, partly because of Duke. The Pirates must decide whether to non-tender Duke and risk losing him to a rival team or offer him $5MM or so after a disappointing performance. I'm guessing the Pirates non-tender the left-hander and see if they can bring him back at a discount, but let's see what you think: Click here to take the survey and here to view the results.


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19 Comments on "Non-Tender Candidate: Zach Duke"


4 years 11 months ago

Stay away, Dombrowski. We know that ol Smokey loves those ex Pirates, but you’ve got $ 75 million in expiring bad contracts, and $ 34 million of that is going to Bonderman, Willis, and Robertson. Get a REAL starting pitcher, and it doesn’t have to be a lefty.

derekbellstutu
4 years 11 months ago

Not only would the Pirates benefit from Zach Duke not being on the team in 2011, but I think Zach is way overdue for a change of scenery. A pitcher’s park in the NL might be the best place for Duke.

O971
4 years 11 months ago

PNC is already, depending on the source, somewhere between being an average to above average pitchers park.

4 years 11 months ago

PNC is a pitchers park. maybe not as extreme as Petco… Duke is going to give up hits wherever he pitches

4 years 11 months ago

dont let the door hit ya on *** on the way out

the league bats .351 against him because he throws batting practice
he has had only a half of a good season since his rookie year

scatterbrian
4 years 11 months ago

This is kinda weird. In 156 career starts:

Zach Duke: 947 IP, 1.93 K/BB, 4.52 ERA, 4.33 FIP, 4.38 xFIP, 11.1 WAR
Paul Maholm: 963.2 IP, 1.81 K/BB, 4.51 ERA, 4.32 FIP, 4.33 xFIP, 11.4 WAR

derekbellstutu
4 years 11 months ago

Maholm would probably benefit from a change of scenery too. I wonder if Duke and/or Maholm will be pitching for a team like San Diego or LA Dodgers next season.

Is the Nationals stadium a pitcher’s or hitter’s park? I could see Duke trying to resurrect his career w/ the Nationals next year. Leaving Pittsburgh for D.C. worked out well for Matt Capps.

InTheKZone
4 years 11 months ago

I wouldn’t be surprised if he pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals next season.

4 years 11 months ago

Not even Dave Duncan can fix this guy.

4 years 11 months ago

He needs a change of scenery for sure but even that might fix him. I’d guess he’s given up on the Pirates just as much as they’ve given up on him. All the losing and bad luck has to take a toll on the guy. He’s not exactly a great pitcher but he’s better than what he’s shown this year. He’s never going to win a Cy but if he wants to get his career back on track he needs to go somewhere else. If he’s comfortable with the amount of money he’s made so far he should probably hope he gets non-tendered and then go somewhere else as fast as he can. No AL, no bandbox parks. San Diego should be his first choice.

derekbellstutu
4 years 11 months ago

The fact is Duke & Maholm are #4 starters at best and the Pirates have been relying on them for years to be top of the rotation pitchers. I hope the Pirates brass realize this and take the proper action to make this club competitive sooner rather than later.

4 years 11 months ago

the Pirates minor league system is looking better now than it has in years. its still going to be a while before the Pirates are competitive

bigpat
4 years 11 months ago

Duke is not a victim of bad luck, when you’re getting pounded for years, eventually you can chalk it up to just being not that good. He is getting a few more strikeouts this year, but does it really matter when he allows so many baserunners?

He’s the kind of guy who can have a good game when everything is going his way, perfect D, double plays at the right time, perfect location, but that is just too much to ask. The Pirates need pitchers who can go on the mound and control the game, not guys who hope to get by with fringe average stuff. Hell, Karstens and Burres don’t have good stuff either, but they seem like they can do Duke’s job for a fraction of the cost.

daveineg
4 years 11 months ago

I’m very glad this is one bad lefty the Brewers didn’t get. I hope the Cardinals get him so he stays in the division. I’m sure the Brewer lineup does too. His career ERA against the Brewers in 17 career starts is 6.17 and the Brewers OPS against him is a nifty .917.

ryetoons
4 years 11 months ago

Maybe the Mets can get Duke and then he could reunite with Perez!

mrsjohnmiltonrocks
4 years 11 months ago

It would seem to me that if the Pirates are thinking of non tendering Duke, they could try to trade him before that decision comes up. He’s left handed, he’s had some success from time to time, he’s not yet 30-I do think if the Pirates are done with him they should try to do that instead.

The Indians did that with their non tender candidate, Kelly Shoppach and got Mitch Talbot for him. Shoppach, like Duke, has some problems in his game, but it’s not like they don’t have some talent that’s worth having around.

I think a change of scenery will do Duke a world of good anyway.

JTCar
4 years 11 months ago

I think you are right. They’ll try and trade him before they need to decide. If they can’t, then I would say non-tender. Somebody out there will probably take a chance. I wonder if the Phillies had salary available next season (which they don’t) if they would be interested. I remember comments Manuel made about liking Duke a lot and that he is truly an All-Star.

derekbellstutu
4 years 11 months ago

Duke has so little value after the horrible season he’s had that I don’t know if the Bucs would get much more than a couple marginal prospects for him. If Ned Colletti is still the GM of the Dodgers this winter, maybe he’ll give us Andre Ethier for Duke.

mrmet128
4 years 11 months ago

i’d take a chance on Duke