Zach Duke is no Jack Morris

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Not that Jack Morris was really Jack Morris anyway. The myth that Morris racked up his big win totals by pitching to the score is mostly just that, a myth.
Zach Duke, though, will never be accused of pitching to the score, at least not in 2009. The 26-year-old left-hander has turned his career around by going 11-15 with a respectable 3.94 ERA for a bad Pirates team. That’s a .423 winning percentage for a club that’s at .381 overall. However, the truth is that he could have been far better had he divvied up some of those RAs differently.
Remarkably, just once all year has Duke won a game in which the Pirates scored fewer than seven runs. That came on June 2, when he outdueled Johan Santana and beat a punchless Mets team 3-1. The Pirates have totaled 97 runs and allowed 26 in his 11 victories. That’s an average score of 9-2. The Pirates have played 144 other games this season. In those, they’ve scored 520 runs and allowed 719. That’s 3.6 runs scored per game and 5.0 allowed.
So, yeah, the Pirates are bad. But it’s still amazing that they’ve somehow managed to go 1-20 when Duke starts and they don’t score at least seven runs. Duke actually receives the best run support on the staff. It’s a little inconsistent, but it’s there. He’s gotten 4.6 runs per nine innings, just a bit ahead of Ross Ohlendorf at 4.4. Compare that to Paul Maholm, who has gotten 3.6 runs, yet has still gone 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA that’s substantially higher than Duke’s. Ohlendorf has the same ERA as Duke and is 11-10.
To lay it all out:
The Pirates are 11-20 in Duke’s starts. They score 4.6 runs per 9 IP for him, and he has a 3.94 ERA.
The Pirates are 15-16 in Maholm’s starts. They score 3.6 runs per 9 IP for him, and he has a 4.44 ERA.
The Pirates are 14-15 in Ohlendorf’s starts. They score 4.4 runs per 9 IP for him, and he has a 3.92 ERA.
I chalk it up to luck, mostly. But Duke hasn’t done his best work in close contests, and since wins and losses are the name of the game, he just hasn’t helped the Pirates as much his numbers indicate. It’s not something I’d hold against him going forward, but it will be worth watching for, just in case it starts to happen again next year.

Video: Albert Almora, Jr. saved by the ivy

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The ALCS had a weird play in Game 4 on Tuesday night, but Game 4 of the NLCS did as well. This one involved Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. and his attempt to spark a rally in the bottom of the ninth inning against Dodgers reliever Ross Stripling.

After Alex Avila singled, Almora ripped a double to left field, past a diving Enrique Hernandez. The ball rolled to the ivy in front of the wall. Most outfielders there would’ve put their hands up, which would have alerted the umpires to call an immediate ground-rule double. Hernandez didn’t, instead fishing the ball out and firing it back into the infield. Avila had stopped at third base, but Almora kept running. Much to his surprise, he pulled up into third base to see his teammate standing there, resigned to his fate as a dead duck. Third baseman Justin Turner applied the tag on Almora for what he thought was the first out of the inning.

Almora, however, was then sent back to second base after the umpires correctly called a ground-rule double.

Unfortunately for the Cubs, the lucky break didn’t help as closer Kenley Jansen came in and took care of business, retiring all three batters he faced without letting an inherited runner score. The Dodgers won 6-1 and now lead the NLCS three games to none. They’ll try to punch their ticket to the World Series on Wednesday.