White Sox News

Second half woes continue for Zach Duke

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Zach Duke has been a solid relief pitcher over the last two seasons, both with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox. He appears to be much more effective in the early months of the season as opposed to the later ones. When a team is trying to make a playoff run, that isn’t a good thing considering postseason spots are earned in September, not May.

In 2014 (with the Brewers), Duke’s ERA was a sparkling 1.18 in the first half of the season. Meanwhile, he had a month of August to forget.

In eight innings pitched, Duke allowed nine earned runs (11 total), 12 hits, one home run, and also walked four batters. He only got credited with one loss, but it is very likely he didn’t help the Brewers win many games.

While August was a month of horrors for Duke, he rebounded in September (2.45 ERA). However that was his second highest ERA month of 2014. In every other month (April through All-Star break) Duke’s ERA was at 1.93 or below (one month of zero-July).

Duke signed with the White Sox this past offseason. Despite a new team, the change of scenery didn’t change his second half performance drop-off. With a first half ERA of 3.09 and an second half ERA of 4.58, we have more evidence of Duke fading in the second half. Even though he is facing hitters for the second time (1st year in American League), I think it goes beyond that.

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Some players have a history of fading in certain roles they are placed into. Keep in mind that Duke was a starter for most of his career and his relief role is a fairly new one. With only the last couple of years to really judge him as a reliever, this is the trend that seems to be playing out. 

I am not saying Duke is a pitcher that doesn’t add value to a bullpen. The main issue with Duke is that due to his fading over the last couple of years, he may need to have some more pieces in the bullpen added around him in order to have a truly dominant pen. While David Robertson has been a good closer, more arms are needed in the 7th and 8th inning roles for the White Sox to have a truly elite pen.

Bullpens are almost impossible to predict but a great one can make an starting rotation look a lot better than it really is (See the 2014 Royals). I don’t know what the White Sox will do in terms of their bullpen, but they do need to a legit eighth inning man before they can contend.

Next: Potential 2016 White Sox rotation?

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