Game 85 – Duke’s ERA Continues to Rise
Zach Duke — just why can’t he win ball games consistently anymore? Today, for instance, he pitched five and one-third innings, allowed eight hits, and four earned runs while throwing just 81 pitches.
Zach is getting the same amount of run support he got last year overall, his overall groundball to flyball rate is just .13 short of last years rate, and his K/9 is down just one per nine innings while his BB/9 is up one this year. But can that possibly explain his 5.01 ERA this year vs. his 1.81 ERA last year? No.. it doesn’t.
So why is Duke’s ERA shooting through the roof and why isn’t he winning more games?
For one, look at the stats below that compare 2005 vs. 2006 opposing batter’s numbers against Duke with runners in scoring position:
Clearly, Zack is allowing a lot more hits with men on in 2006 that he did in 2005 and that has contributed to 15% less runners left on base this year and more runs scored. Those hits allowed this year are also the contributing factor to his extremely high batting average allowed to runners in scoring position.
So where are they coming from? Why are they happening?
Here is one of the biggest reasons:
Thanks to fangraphs.com for the use of the graph!
Look at how well left hand batters are now hitting Duke (each dot indicates Duke’s next start). While the 2005 season was an obvious rookie season aberration, Duke’s 2006 numbers have been pretty steady vs. right hand batters overall all year.
But something happened after the 6th game of this year that has allowed left hand batters to figure him out and he has steadily been paying the price for it ever since. That 6th game was vs. the Cubs on May 2cd where he threw a then career high 112 pitches in a complete game shutout. After that game, his ERA was 3.46 for the year.
Over the next 12 games, his ERA has been 5.86. That is a significant difference.
Another reason Duke’s ERA is jumping is because right hand batters have been putting the ball in play more successfully against him this year, as this graphic shows:
Thanks to fangraphs.com for the use of the graph!
So when you consider that Duke’s batting average on balls in play (BABiP) has increased sharply (especially the last nine games) vs. right hand batters in 2006 over his 2005 numbers, as the graphic above indicates, and you add the fact more and more left hand batters are now hitting clutch against him when they do put a ball in play, as the first graph shows with the climbing ERA vs. LHB, you now know what is happening to Duke.
It is up to Zach to adjust, which he has not done over the last 5 games as the graphs show us. Consider this, when was the last time you saw Zach throw one of his 88 mph heaters under the chin of a left hand batter? Never, that I can recall.
Also consider that his GB/FB rate has sharply declined from 2005 with runners in scoring position. Typically, that is a good thing because fly balls are turned into outs more often than groundballs are. But this year, they aren’t being fielded for outs like they were last year when they were hit on the ground so, perhaps, Zach needs to try and get more groundballs put in play with men in scoring position?
We’ll have to see how this plays out because, if he doesn’t make an adjustment soon, his ERA will continue to spiral out of control.
Today’s game was an unfortunate display of tired baseball players playing under poor conditions. Yesterday’s game was played in high heat with high humidity and today’s game was even worse. The end result was as you would expect.. a lot of errors and miscues on both sides.
While Paulino committed two errors throwing two balls into centerfield trying to throw out Reyes in two different innings, and while Paulino hasn’t yet learned how to block the plate like he owns it which allowed a run to score, and Sanchez played in too much for my liking most of the game allowing too many balls in play to get past him for singles, the biggest blow of the game came when Jason Bay misplayed a fly ball off Delgado’s bat in the 4th inning that ended up giving the Mets four outs that inning and they capitalized by getting two runs. And, no, Bay wasn’t charged with an error – but he should have been.
The third run in that fourth inning came when Craig Wilson didn’t throw out Delgado at home from medium right field off Nady’s sharply hit grounder to him – Delgado was dead meat but Craig didn’t even attempt a throw. I’m an advocate of playing hard and making that throw and let the catcher make the call to the cutoff man but Wilson was not aggressive at all.. and it cost us.
So defensively, we gave the game to the Mets in the fourth inning. The rest of the game was simply window dressing.
Most fans will probably be upset that the pen gave the game away late, but let’s face some facts – they have been doing a fabulous job lately and to have one game where they give up a few runs just doesn’t excite me too much at all. Especially when our defense had long given up the game by allowing too many runs to score off them.
Offensively, the three guys I called on Tracy yesterday to let start against Glavine – and kudos to Tracy for making the lineup adjustments to get them in – Craig, Randa, and Bay, went 7-14 ( half the team’s hits) and had three rbis.
I really like the lineup/defense we featured today with Randa at 3B and Sanchez at 2B and Craig and Burnitz platooning based on who is pitching. This is a winning lineup card if Tracy will continue to feature it, but we know he won’t as he will feel Castillo has to play. I’m not so sure I agree.
– tidbits –
Tracy has to break up the rotation the way it is right now. He can’t continue to have Duke pitch right behind Maholm because the team they are facing sees two similar throwing pitchers back to back and Duke is going to end up taking the wrath for it.
How about Jason Bay? Jeepers.. this guy is either 100% a fielder or 100% a batter. If he would just learn to combine the two and become the total player.. oh my. Move him to 1B when Casey is dealt Tracy!
Over anxious for a win perhaps, Tracy started Paulino in today’s day game after a night game last night. The end result was disaster. Tracy needs to start believing in his bench and let Cota get behind the plate because it is going to cause Paulino to be toast by August. I bet he has already lost 15 pounds this year.. maybe more.
Pirates are now 6-24 in day games. I’ll have to go back and figure out how many of those were one run losses too. Pirates are also 9-32 in away games.
Here’s a crusher.. with today’s loss, the Pirates are now 25-3 when leading after the 7th (7-2 in away games) and the Mets go to 3-28 when losing after 7 (2-13 at home).
Tracy was tossed today when he came out to argue on the play Paulino didn’t block the plate on. The funny thing about him being tossed is, when Torres was pulled from the game after giving up back to back walks in the 8th, Torres charged home plate ump Angel Hernandez vividly upset with his strike zone and was tossed. While Hernandez had a very liberal zone all day long, for some reason it had become pretty small to Torres so Torres had a right to be a bit upset. But he should never have charged the ump.. that’s a cardinal sin in baseball – just as it is to mouth off about it in the paper the next day. Tracy immediately jumped in between Torres and Hernandez and Torres ended up walking away.
Two batters later, Nady singles to McLouth in right field who makes a good throw to Paulino to get Chavez at home but Hernandez called him safe. Typically those type of bang-bang plays go to the defense but, perhaps if other replays show him out, Hernandez was sending a message to Torres and Tracy?
The above photo shows where Paulino was at once he received Nate’s throw. The red arrow shows where his plant foot is and the "X" indicates where it should have been with his leg crouched across the plate to fully block it.
The bottom photo shows Chavez sliding and touching home plate before Paulino even got the tag down. The local media will probably say Paulino was adequately blocking the plate and Paulino tagged him before he scored but that simply isn’t true as you can clearly see. Paulino isn’t a second baseman who should be making swipe tags – he needs to *block* the plate and not allow the runners foot to even get close.
Here is a vid of the play if you want to even see it clearer (click the play button):
He looked safe to me.
Tracy came out and was ejected when he threw his hat on the ground. I’m sure Tracy simply went out to get some brownie points from the Pirates players because he knew before he took one step out of the dugout he had no prayer at all in getting the call reversed. Kudos to Tracy for at least thinking about the players.. that’s a first step.
Besides.. if Tracy wanted to yell at something, maybe he should have started with Torres, then went to Bay, then went to Paulino and told him he will be out tomorrow at 9 am to learn how to properly block a plate. LoL
How about Brad Lincoln winning the 2006 Brooks Wallace Award Trophy yesterday? Wow! That was his fourth national award this year. Unbelievable. Here is a short blurb on the award from CSTV:
"The Brooks Wallace Award is presented annually by the College Baseball Foundation to the National Player of the Year in NCAA Division I baseball. It is the only award that accounts for the full season of collegiate play, including all post-season competition. The CBF National Selection Committee is comprised of coaches, writers, broadcasters, sports information directors and former winners who most closely follow the sport."
Congrats to Brad Lincoln!