The Minnesota Twins did some Christmas day shopping as they are reportedly set to bring left-hander Zach Duke into their bullpen mix.
The Minnesota Twins on Christmas Day reportedly agreed to sign left-handed relief pitcher Zach Duke. It likely isn’t the big present Twins fans would have liked to have opened up on Christmas Day, like say Yu Darvish, but Duke should prove to be a valuable asset to the 2018 Twins.
Last season in Duke’s first action after returning from Tommy John surgery he came back to pitch 18.1 innings with a 3.93 ERA. His K/9 of 5.89 and xFIP of 4.71 were both well below the performance that Duke has become used to producing, but it was incredible that he returned to major league action at all in 2017.
As Jon Roegele wrote at FanGraphs, Duke completed one of the fastest recoveries from Tommy John surgery. Any recoveries that allowed a pitcher returned to the same level of baseball from pre-injury and was any quicker than Duke’s was nearly 10 years ago, while most occurred in the last century. If you go ahead and read the rest of Roegele’s article you will see time and time again how Duke beat the Tommy John recovery timetable.
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With Duke’s Tommy John recovery complete, the Twins will hope Duke will strengthen their stable of left-handed relievers as he likely joins Taylor Rogers and Gabriel Moya as lefties in the Twins bullpen. If Duke returns to his 2014-2016 pitching form he will bring with him a pitching performance in which he put up a 2.74 ERA and a 10.4 K/9. That includes 2014 and 2015 when he held left-handed batters to a batting average under .200.
Duke has never been a flamethrower by any means. He has been an effective pitcher by changing speeds and also as Tom Froemming pointed out on Twitter he has found success by deceiving batters with his varying his release points.
What may also help Duke’s ability to strike batters out as a lower velocity pitcher is the late break he is able to get on his pitches. According to MLB quality of pitch on Twitter, Duke finds himself in the top 11% of baseball for “late break” on his pitches. That late break gives batters less time to pick up on the exact location of Duke’s pitches.
While Duke isn’t the Darvish or Wade Davis many fans were hoping to find under the tree Christmas morning. Duke should provide quite the upgrade for the Twins pen over the group of Rogers, Craig Breslow and Buddy Boshers that the Twins started 2017 with.