Exit Interview: Zach Duke

For the fifth straight year, we’re taking some time in that time between the end of the season and the winter meetings to discuss each player that made an appearance on the St. Louis roster this season.  Whether they played almost every day or never actually got into a game, they get covered in this series.  All stats are exclusively their time in St. Louis.   Just think of this as them stopping by Mike Matheny‘s office for a quick evaluation before heading home for the winter.

This year’s Exit Interview series is “being brought to you by” some of the various Cardinal podcasts that are out there for your listening pleasure.  Our focus this time is Two Birds on a Bat.  One of the more recent shows I’ve found, these guys are a bit of a throwback, just three guys talking about the game (though with a professional-sounding show).  Plus they regularly have Bengie Molina weighing in.  Find them on iTunes or check out their site!

Player: Zach Duke

Season stats: 0-1, 1 SV, 1.93 ERA, 28 games, 23.1 IP, 17 H, 13 BB, 26 K, 1.286 WHIP, 2.85 FIP, 0.9 bWAR

Hero/Goat: Goat 1

Overall grade: C+

Positives: Only was charged with a run in four of his appearances with the Cardinals….had a 0.73 ERA in August….batters hit .202 against him in the second half….had a .380 OPS when batters swung at his first pitch (all splits for entire year)….batters hit .198/.328/.292 when runners were on….limited hitters to a .167 mark with two outs and runners in scoring position….was best in medium leverage (.172/.279/.259)….shut hitters down when he had a lead (.547 OPS)….actually limited righties to a lower average (.203 to .233) but lefties still had a better OPS (.580 to .635).

Negatives: Allowed the first run of Alex Reyes career, walking in a batter with the bases loaded against Oakland….had a tough September, posting an ERA of 3.27 for the month and allowing runs in two of his last four appearances….had his worst line against in high-leverage situations (.262/.384/.344)….had a 4.58 ERA when used with no rest….had a 2.72 ERA at night, a full run higher than his day ERA.

Overview: When John Mozeliak acquired Duke for Charlie Tilson, it was the classic Mo trading deadline move.  Trade a mid-range prospect (I actually suggested Tilson in a Meet Me at Musial right before the deadline) for a reliever that you can use this year and next.  For the most part, Duke lived up to his expectations.  While he never seemed to get on a dominant roll or anything, more often than not it seemed he did his job when called upon for the Cardinals.  It helped that he wasn’t necessarily a LOOGY, so that he could get out of some jams if he put a runner on instead of immediately being yanked.  He only allowed three inherited runners (out of 25) to score, so he could come into some tighter situations and usually hold the line.  Obviously he was no Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman, but Charlie Tilson doesn’t get you those folks and Duke possibly gave more bang for the buck given the prices of the other two.  (Then again, both of them went to the World Series.)  All in all, it was one of those safe, conservative, solid moves that Mo does all the time.  It’s not exciting, but it typically gets the job done.

Outlook: Of course, after the season we found out why Duke might have struggled at the end as he wound up needing Tommy John surgery.  He’s not going to pitch for the Cardinals next year and he’ll be entering his Age 35 season in 2018, so whether the club will want to try to resign him at the end of the deal is questionable.  The two months that we saw him in 2016 very well may be the only time he takes the field for St. Louis, but on the bright side that’s still more than we got out of Jordan Walden.

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