The injury-plagued Justin Duchscherer

Justin Duchscherer has been linked to the Yankees several times during the last few seasons, and though there haven’t been any recent reports that the team has any interest (so far the A’s, Red Sox and Pirates have been the only teams mentioned in connection with the righthander), given the Yankees’ continued need for help at the back end of the rotation we may as well take a look at what Duchscherer might have to offer. [UPDATE, 1/10/2011: As you are likely aware the Yankees have now once again been linked to the Duch. Looks like I was a week ahead of schedule].

Per the blog 60 Feet, 6 Inches, since converting from relieving to starting in 2008, the lifelong Athletic (save for 14.2 innings with Texas in 2001) has battled a variety of physical injuries as well as mental, which ended up cutting his 2008 short, keeping him off a Big League mound entirely in 2009 and also curbing his 2010 after five starts.

What we have here is a talented pitcher who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy throughout his career. When he actually has made it to the mound, he’s been pretty useful, with his best season coming in 2008, when he made a career-high 22 starts, throwing 141.2 innings of 2.54 ERA/3.69 FIP ball, good for 2.9 fWAR.

Duchscherer’s a rather extreme soft-tosser (85.9mph carer average fastball), whose best pitches are his cutter (25.2 runs above average for his career) and curveball (his 7.1 runs above average in 2008 would’ve been fifth-best in the AL that season had he had enough innings to qualify). He’s gotten 42% of his career outs on the ground, which isn’t all that special, and only cracked 8 K/9 in 2005 and 2006, so he’s not exactly a big-time strikeout artist (6.87 career).

Duchscherer’s relative success appears to be primarily reliant on the fact that he doesn’t walk many batters (2.40 career BB/9) and does a decent job of keeping the ball in the park (0.93 career HR/9), which have contributed to his reasonable 3.86 career FIP. He’s also had rather good fortune on his BABIP (.272 career) and strands runners with the best of them (77.6% career), two factors that have helped him significantly outpitch that FIP and led to an impressive 3.13 career ERA.

CAIRO has Duchscherer projected for 64 innings of 3.92 ERA/4.29 FIP ball, good for 0.9 WAR. Given Duchscherer’s injury history I can’t see anyone giving the righty more than the one year/$1.75 million Oakland gave him last winter. If he signed at around that price and was able to take the mound enough times to produce around 1.0 WAR I think we’d all take that happily, but with Duchscherer the question will always remain whether he can actually stay on the playing field.