Thursday, August 18, 2005

Grand Duke'd
By Ben Valentine

For those of you who don’t necessarily follow young players in baseball, Zach Duke has taken the world by storm. Well by about as much storm as a guy pitching for a last place team can generate by starting out 5-0 with a 2.13 ERA. So I was definitely looking forward to seeing the lefty pitch against the Mets, learning about his style and his stuff in depth for the first time.

Mr. Duke did not disappoint.

Because of the debate I’ve had with Zach regarding the current “greatness” of Felix Hernandez, I wanted to pay particular close attention to Duke. So I charted his pitches, tallied his outs (groundball/flyball) and took general notes as to what I felt like during the game.

For starters, Duke throws in the mid to high 80’s consistently. He can hit the 90’s; he topped out at 94 tonight, but he didn’t throw that hard often. His plus breaking ball is a looping curveball. It looked good tonight, especially against Cliff Floyd, the only lefty who saw Duke tonight.

He managed 11 ground ball outs while generating five fly ball outs and striking out five. Duke only walked one, David Wright, in the seventh. He threw 103 pitches, 69 for strikes. He didn’t allow a run, a scattered two hits in his seven innings, nailing down his sixth win and dropping his ERA to 1.87.

Duke’s stuff is good, though not electric. But he looks to have a soild makeup. For me, the lefty had two telling moments. The first was when Carlos Beltran reached on a dropped ball in right field. With a runner on second, two outs, Duke fired a good curve for a strike to Cliff Floyd. He went on to strike Floyd out. Later on in the seventh, after giving up a single to Beltran, and again striking out Floyd, he walked Wright. Then after falling behind Chris Woodward, and having Beltran steal third, he worked the count back to 2-2. Woodward fouled off pitch after pitch, but in the end Duke got him to ground into a double play to end the threat.

It was one start, but Mr. Duke impressed me as a young player who knows how to pitch. I’m sure he will have his struggles down the road, and the Mets weren’t exactly sporting the greatest of lineups tonight, but like most, I feel the kid has a bright future ahead of him.

Rotation Update: Steve Trachsel made his last allowed start at AAA tonight taking a 2-1 loss. He went seven innings, giving up both runs on five hits, one walk and striking out six. Both runs were solo homers. Most people have been saying there's no way Trachsel will work out the pen, and with Victor Zambrano's poor performace of late (6 innings, 6 hits, 1 walk, 4 ERs, 2 HBP, 1 WP and 3 Ks tonight), it would not surprise me now to see Zambrano being the odd man out if no trade is made.

History Not Kind to King Felix-

I was a history major at NYU and I’m a big believer in history repeating itself. Well in my most recent edition of the Sporting News magazine which arrived today, they quickly cataloged the seven pitchers before Felix Hernandez to make their first start while in their teens. Jose Rijo, Rich Garces, Wilson Alvarez, Edwin Correa, Doc Gooden, Todd Van Poppel and Bret Saberhagen. Of that list only Gooden and Saberhagen made successful careers for themselves. None on the list are Hall of Famers. Most suffered significant arm trouble in their careers.

Again, I like Hernandez a lot. But to declare him one of the best pitchers in baseball after three starts just isn’t fair to anyone. I mean, technically, he’s still just a prospect.


Blogger RotoAuthority said...

Ben, who is calling him the best pitcher in baseball? way too much uncertainty there. anyway, i'm curious to see where zach duke settles in. can he be a #1-2 starter in the years to come? not sure how much of this hot start is unfamiliarity.

1:02 AM  
Blogger RotoAuthority said...

(my first question was in reference to felix by the way.)

1:03 AM  
Blogger David Arnott said...

Wait wait wait... YOU CHARTED THE GAME? Ben. Buddy. Pal. If you were at least indirectly paid to do this, I wouldn't think twice, but I can't get past this. Don't do it again. You're worrying me, dude. But well said, nonetheless.

1:04 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

It's left over from the debate Zach and I were having about this a little way down, where Zach declared he's already one of the best pitchers in baseball. I disagreed. I love Felix's talent, but like you said; there's a lot of uncertainty.

As for Duke, I like him. But the Pirates have had lots of prospects over the years, who never panned out.(Schmidt, Benson) I still think of him as a solid #2 down the road. I do think he will have struggles at times, probably next season.

David- I didn't have much else to do tonight. I wouldn't really do it again. But I knew I was going to write about Duke, so I decided to pay close attention. It's not like I counted how many curveballs he threw for strikes or something. Thanks for your concern though.

1:42 AM  

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