A quick look at Chad Durbin

Sabathia shedding pounds this offseason
Mailbag: Joe Blanton
(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

With the Yankees still mired in a never-ending search for quality bullpen help, one name on the free agent list caught my eye the other day and I’m just now getting around to writing about him: Chad Durbin. He and the Phillies tried to work out a deal earlier in the offseason but they just couldn’t get it done, and eventually the team declined to offer him arbitration as a Type-B free agent who earned $2.125M in 2010.

The right-hander ran three-fifths of the AL Central circuit earlier in his career, bouncing from the Royals to the Indians to the Twins with a brief stop in Arizona mixed in along the way. It wasn’t until he signed with a Phillies before the 2008 season as a non-tendered player that Durbin actually started to experience some sustained success. They put an end to his days as a starter, using him exclusively in relief for the first time in his career.

Durbin’s first season as a reliever went very well. He struck out just 6.47 batters per nine innings but made up for by limiting walks (2.87 uIBB/9) and getting some ground balls (45.6%). His FIP was a rock solid 3.77 in 87.2 innings, third most thrown among big league relievers, and Charlie Manuel certainly went to Durbin in big spots: his 1.47 leverage index when entering the game was one of the highest in baseball among non-closers. And, of course, the Phillies won the World Series that year, which I’m sure is one of his career highlights.

Unfortunately Durbin took a pretty significant step back in 2009, unintentionally walking 5.81 batters per nine innings and getting a grounder just 39.5% of the time. He did up his strikeout rate to 8.01 per nine, but his 5.14 FIP in 69.2 innings was below replacement level. Durbin did miss more than two weeks with a strained lat, so maybe that’s to blame. The good news is that he bounced back rather well in 2010, striking out 8.26 per nine, walking 3.28 per nine unintentionally, and generating 42.4% ground balls. His 3.97 FIP was the second best of his career, though the 68.2 innings he threw were even less than he contributed in 2009. Blame that on a strained hamstring that required a three-week stint on the disabled list.

So going forward, who is the real Durbin, the 2008, 2009, or 2010 version? It’s probably a combination of all three, really. The horrible walk rate in ’09 is clearly an outlier compared to the rest of his career, so I feel confident in saying that won’t be an issue going forward. His strikeout rate has steadily improved throughout his career, so his 7.49 K/9 over the last three seasons is likely his true talent level, ditto the 42.8% ground balls. Homeruns haven’t been much of a problem (0.80 HR/9 since 2008 with half his games coming in Citizens Bank Park) and even though he’s been hurt the last two years, he’s still provided a healthy amount of innings. Among pure relievers, only Carlos Marmol has thrown more over the last three seasons.

At 33 years old, Durbin is what he is, and that’s a pretty solid middle relief option. He’s not the sexy name setup man, but he’s a viable big league reliever that can absolutely make the Yankees’ bullpen deeper and more effective. And for what it’s worth, he’s spent the last three years playing in pressure games, going to World Series twice, so he knows what that kind of atmosphere is all about. If nothing else, it’s a little comforting.

The problem is probably cost, however. Look at the deals given to guys like Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Pedro Feliciano, and Randy Choate this offseason, all of whom are at that 3.75ish FIP level over the last three years, if not worse. There’s really no reason to believe that Durbin will take anything less than a two-year contract. That’s a going rate for decent relief help this year, and at 33 years old this is probably his one and only chance at a significant free agent pay day. I’d be all for signing Durbin to beef up the relief corps, but the price has to be right.

email
Sabathia shedding pounds this offseason
Mailbag: Joe Blanton
  • MattG

    Why are the Yankees looking for right-handed relievers? The plan should be to find two starters, and start the season with Rivera, Chamberlain, Robertson, Nova and Mitre, with Phelps, Noesi, Pope and others ready in case of injury.

    And if that is the plan, you might want to consider Durbin & others on one year deals, as insurance in case Nova ends up in the rotation, but no two year deals.

    • Ted Nelson

      We don’t know what the Yankees are looking at… Mike Axisa is looking at RHRP the Yankees might also take a look at or even sign.

      Theoretically it would be great to acquire 2 SP… but who? Cashman has basically said that he would like to improve the rotation, but that he isn’t in a rush to overpay to do so. He can get a starter or two before the season starts (maybe even Andy Pettitte), but he can also wait until mid-season and see who is available then. Strengthening the bullpen and leaving Nova/Mitre in the rotation (with Noesi, Phelps, Brackman, etc. also in the mix at some point and maybe a flier on a low cost vet FA) may not be the long-term solution, but it may be the best solution in the short-term (maybe some of the young arms hit sooner than later and it’s a long-term solution…). Better than rushing out and giving Jesus Montero for Wandy Rodriguez or something ridiculous like that.

      • MattG

        Probably the two you look at now are Pettitte and Francis, but I am hoping there are some trade candidates of which I am unaware.

        I think the Yankees should be looking at relievers too, but only as insurance should Nova be pressed to start. As such, 1-year deals only are sort of necessitated.

        • Ted Nelson

          “Why are the Yankees looking for right-handed relievers?”
          “I think the Yankees should be looking at relievers too”
          See any contradiction there?

          I don’t really think 1 year deals are a necessity. You don’t usually want to commit multiple years to a middle reliever, but if it’s a guy the Yankees think is worth having for 2 years I’m not really worried about finding room on the roster, trading him, or even cutting him if the deal is small enough ($2 mill is 1% the budget, $3 mill is 1.5%).

          Yankees are obviously looking at Pettitte, but along with the Yankees he’s also looking at retirement. The Yankees can only do so much. Francis may choose to sign elsewhere and/or may not be worth the contract he’s commanding in the Yankees’ opinion. Again, there is no rush to finalize the rotation by opening day. Better options and better bargains may emerge in-season. Or, maybe Pettitte does give it one more go and Francis comes in as a FA.

          Nova is a legitimate starting prospect that most any team really would not mind breaking spring training with as their 5th starter. It’s not really “pressed” to start as he has a chance to be a starter in the majors for a while. The Yankees won 95 games last season with basically 2.5 quality starters… They’ll survive.

          • MattG

            “See any contradiction there?”

            Yes, which is why neither of my posts ended there. You can re-read either to comprehend the entire concept, rather than selective highlights.

            Upshot: no two year deals on RH relievers, yet. Plan A: find starters, look at relievers on one year deals as insurance.

            • Ted Nelson

              I read both your comments, thanks.

              They just seem utterly unnecessary. Mike never said “Chad Durbin is the greatest priority the Yankees could possibly have and they should do everything they can to sign him before even considering acquiring a starting pitcher not named Ivan Nova or Sergio Mitre.” He’s throwing a name out there of a cheap relief pitcher who the Yankees might look at throwing some pocket change at.

              If the Yankees have the chance they will improve their rotation going into the season. If not they do need a RHRP or two. You acknowledge this, so I don’t know why you are so dogmatic in your claims that they should not be looking at a RHRP then that they should not be looking at one on a multi-year deal.

              If you can get a considerably better pitcher on a 2 year deal than a one year deal… you still take the crappy pitcher just to save 1% of payroll in 2012??? Sounds great. No more than 1 year no matter what the circumstance. Because MattG said so. Awesome.

          • http://bugsy117@aol.com bugsy

            the yankees were a 500 team aug and sept, they lost mr.cub, swish had a career year jaba wasnt trusted there in trouble if posada is there dh, there not going to get 18 wins from hughes,if pettite dosent come back there in deep trouble.

        • OldYanksFan

          Certainly having a good BP helps make up for a weaker SP staff. But that’s a good BP. If Cashman wants to spend money on a qaulity BP guy, I can go along with that. But I don’t think we need (another) average RHP for the BP.

          Chad Durbin had an excellent year in 2008, but has been well below average every other year. 1 yr/$1m… what’s to lose? 2 years???? PASS!

          • jsbrendog (returns)

            i disagree. having a strong SP makes a good BP but a good bp can’t make up for bad SP because they get overused and that is when numbers inflate and injuries occur. I honestly don’t think a pen of the best relivers from the first half of 2010 could continue to do well when put with a rotation of the worst 5 starters from the irst half of 2010.

            if that makes sense…i think it does to me

  • Mark L.

    With Cashman putting Mitre and Nova in the rotation and cheaping out on Aceves, the Yankees bullpen is currently Mo-Joba-Robertson-Logan-Feliciano-R.Sanchez.

    It would certainly be nice to have a veteran RHRP who can go 4-6 outs if necessary. Unfortunately, these new Yankees have a thing about paying market prices for players who can actually contribute.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      cheaping out on aceves. yeah, no a guy who hasnt piutched in a yr with a chronic back injury should totally be given a guarantee contract worth milions for what he did 2 yrs ago.

    • whozat

      “Cheaping out on Aceves”? The guy has had major back problems. What are the odds he’d even be able to contribute at all?

      “It would certainly be nice to have a veteran RHRP who can go 4-6 outs if necessary.”

      I assume you mean quality outs. If you could find a reliever that would likely be able to produce at that level for the duration of his contract, I’m sure Cashman would happily pay him market value. However, given that the only sure thing about relievers on multi-year deals seems to be that they get hurt or suck…

  • bottom line

    “It would certainly be nice to have a veteran RHRP who can go 4-6 outs if necessary. Unfortunately, these new Yankees have a thing about paying market prices for players who can actually contribute.”

    Harsh — but true. The willingness to give Cliff Lee 7 yrs/$150 million, but refusal to pay up for genuine 8th inning relief is puzzling.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Who is this genuine eighth inning option they are refusing to pay?

      • MattG

        I don’t agree with the premise, but I’ll guess Jenks is exhibit A for the prosecution.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          and jenks CHOSE to go somewhere else where he will most likely have a greater opportunity and also possibly have a chance to close. papelbon has sucked and they did give jenks a million in incentives for games finished. there is 0% chance of that in NY

          do people really not get that players CHOOSE where to go? and paying him any more than boston did to try and “buy” him is just bad business. i hope none of the people who can’t grasp this ever have to run one.

        • Ted Nelson

          2 years 12 mill for a set-up man… nice.

      • Mark L.

        There just seems to be no logic to this process. Jenks and Wheeler get $12 and $3.5 million respectively from Boston. Choate gets $2.5 million from Florida. Yet Feliciano, nothing more than a durable LOOGY, is signed for $8 million and Aceves is non-tendered, with no mention of attempting to re-sign him on a mL deal with incentives.

        Cashman has seemingly made no effort to engage one of the “cheaper” options like Durbin, Qualls or Saito — let alone the better bets like Fuentes, Gregg, Rauch or Balfour. We aren’t the Orioles or Pirates, we don’t have to wait to see who the leftovers are. If we can’t improve the rotation, at least bulk up the bullpen, even if it means spending $2-3 million more than you would have liked.

        I understand that each of the guys I’ve mentioned have a sticking point or potential drawback, but I can guarantee they’re better bets to contribute than Romulo Sanchez. These deals will only cost money and, unlike the starting market, there are still attractive options available.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          fuentes is by no means a better bet in any way. he is an example of volatility having gone from a good closer to a total turd in the span of 3 yrs.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          I understand that each of the guys I’ve mentioned have a sticking point or potential drawback, but I can guarantee they’re better bets to contribute than Romulo Sanchez.

          amazing kreskin, is that you?

          • Mark L.

            He had an ERA above 4 in the minors and his stuff is pretty ordinary. If comes out throwing bullets in spring training, we will always be able to find innings for him.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              his stuff is pretty ordinary

              You clearly have no idea what you’re talking about.

              • Mark L.

                A 94-96 mph fastball and a decent change, certainly useful but nothing earth-shattering. Sounds like Scott Proctor, actually.

                • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

                  It also sounds like Joaquin Benoit and Bobby Jenks.

                  • Mark L.

                    As far as I recall, “stuff” normally refers to the action on a pitch, not the velocity. Guys who can hit the upper-90s and have a workable breaking pitch certainly have value but my recollection of Sanchez was that he wasn’t getting much movement on his pitches.

                    But I digress, his contract status means he’ll get a real shot in ST but I’d be much more comfortable with our bullpen if we had a veteran set-up guy in camp, even if it means paying an inflated market rate.

                    Some may call this spending for the sake of spending but it is hard to stand firm on principle when financial success depends on winning over the mob. An 88 win team could put a real dent in their revenues in 2011.

                    • jsbrendog (returns)

                      Some may call this spending for the sake of spending but it is hard to stand firm on principle when financial success depends on winning over the mob. An 88 win team could put a real dent in their revenues in 2011.

                      this is completely false.

      • bottom line

        Soriano and Jenks,among others.

        I have heard all the objections to Soriano and am underwhelmed. Relievers are inconsistent? He’s been very good over the last five or six years. He’s always hurt? But somehow he’s pitched 60 or more innings four of the last five years. He won’t take an 8th inning job. Perhaps, but other clubs seem to be holding back becuase of the cost of a first round pick. But for the Yanks this year with a strong ad developing system and low draft status this factor should be overwhemed by the need to put in place a lockc down 8th inning option. And the potential it would create for moving Joba– either in a trade for a starter or to a starter role.

        • Ted Nelson

          Ummm…. He made 7.25 mill last season and is looking for a raise and a multi-season deal. How about that one? Have you heard that one? Have you heard that paying $30 or 40 mill for a set-up man is just unheard of?

      • bottom line

        Soriano is the premium guy, with consistency over the last five years. I’m underwhelmed with all the arguments against him. His WHIP last year was 0.80 and he’s been around 1.00 virtually every year. He’s been on the DL? Yes, but that hasn’t prevented him from posting 60 or more innings four of the last five years. He costs a draft pick? And what is the history of veryl ow first rounders. I can reel off the names of half a ddozen — need I remind anyone of Brain Buchanan and Shea Morenz — who failed. Yes, he might require a three or four year deal. And I would bet those three years will be far more productive — and a whole lot cheaper — than the last three years the yankees were willing to give Cliff Lee.

        Jenks ain’t too shabby either. Or Downs.

        • I Voted 4 Kodos

          Soriano gets a ton of flyballs and is right handed which could spell trouble in NYS. He had an xFIP of 3.81 last year, which would scare me away from giving him big dollars and multiple years. He also likely still wants to close, meaning the Yanks may have to give him an additional premium to lure him here.

          I would have liked Jenks, but Boston he chose a situation in which he has a better chance of stepping into the closer role. Not much the Yankees could have done other than overpay.

          • bottom line

            His xFIP? Are you serious. Here’s a guy– Soriano– who pitched 62 innings last year and gave up a total of 36 hits. His WHIP was an astounding o,8. His ERA (which I guess you doon’t believe in much) was 1.73. His K/BB ratio was over 4. Oh, and he compiled another meaningles stat to all those . He somehow lucked out and save 47 games. But we shouldn’t even considerthis guy because of flippin xFIP.

            And Soriano really must be the exception that proves the so-called rule of “inconsistent relievers. His last six ERAs, going back to 2005: 2.45, 2.25. 3.00, 2.57,2.97 and 1.73.

            • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

              He’s been on the 60-day DL in three of those six years. Sounds nice and reliable to me. Kinda guy you’d want to give a three or four year deal to.

              Oh but the ERA’s!

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      you know usually genuine 8th inning relief doesnt just cost money…it costs picks and years and relievers are volatile so a genuine relief option can turn to crap in 1 yr and the next 1, 2, 3 yrs of the contract are shot.

      • OldYanksFan

        Yup…. amazing how many people freaked with Cashman gave Marte, an above average LEFTY, a decent contract. Now Cashman is a jerk for not spending $12m on Jenks (IF he could be had) or $5m for Chad Durbin?

        Again, why shop for a stereo in October, when you now there will be a greater variety at much better prices pre-Christmas and Presidents day. I know we are all anxious, but Cashman has shown he is happy to wait for better meat/better deals in July. IMHO, this is a better way to go.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          i honestly liked the marte deal except for the 3rd yr. the guy had been a model of health and consistency prior to that contract. It really seemed to all go downhill from that one appearance girardi left him in for like 50 pitches and torre’d him. he was never the same afterwards…

    • OldYanksFan

      The Yankees have a boatload of RHP on the farm. Rotate them around, and chances are 1 can be league average. I’m not even sure Chad Durbin will be (for the BP) league average.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        ahhh the old spaghetti wall trick. i’m picking up what you’re putting down

        • toad

          It’s not a bad idea at all. You’re gambling in any case, and lots of low-probability bets can often be a better proposition than one somewhat higher probability bet.

          • jsbrendog (returns)

            i would not be uncomfortable wagering that one of the yankees spaghetti strands can equal or outproduce Jenks in WAR this yr.

            • MattG

              Yes, but the impact is the innings you expend on moldy spaghetti, while figuring out which spaghetti strands are edible. And, RP being volatile, its often volatile within seasons to, so you’d better have a lazy susan for your spaghetti bowls, and a real knack for turning it at just the right time.

              • jsbrendog (returns)

                much better than only having one strand that is making mroe than the others and stayed in the water too long ans is too starchy by june but making 4 mil

                • I Voted 4 Kodos

                  Taking the analogy this far made me laugh far more than it should have.

                • MattG

                  Now you’re being silly. Who ever heard of a strand of spaghetti making $4mil?

    • I Voted 4 Kodos

      Yeah, I’m baffled that they were willing to pay one of the top three pitchers in baseball but are hesitant to hand out large contracts to the most volatile players in baseball. It’s not like the Yankees have had a tremendous amount of success with low cost bullpen options in the last few years.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        and epic fails with expensive relievers. quantrill, farnsworth, marte.

        • I Voted 4 Kodos

          Exactly. Their current spaghetti/wall method has been quite successful while they’ve been burned by pretty much every big contract they’ve given to relievers. Why mess with what has worked?

  • jsbrendog (returns)

    so what you’re saying is that everything is dumbasso fartface’s fault.

    • OldYanksFan

      Leave ARod alone!

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        dumbasso fartface = damaso marte (lol i thought that would be obv)

        but, obviously this is a shot at jeter.

        /couldn’t resist’d

  • MattG

    What commitment/compensation does Balfour require? I’d prefer him to Durbin, especially if contract length is even. AAV should not be a significant concern.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      doesn’t he require a pick?

      • Mark L.

        Yeah, he’s Type A so he is either going back to Tampa or signing with a non-contender — really a dumb compensation system