When the Pirates chose to non-tender Zach Duke and eventually ship him off to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a minor league PTBNL it was pretty obvious that the club was in the market for a starting pitcher and, after striking out with their primary target Jorge de le Rosa, they finally got one in the form of former Padre Kevin Correia, signing Correia to a 2 year/$8 million deal early this morning. Correia is by no means a world beater and he is coming off of a pretty poor season but then again the exact same thing can be said about the man that he will likely be replacing in the rotation in Zach Duke, so before you go off anointing this deal with a collective “meh” and getting back to the Steelers and Pens news we owe it to everyone to at least take a look at their larger numbers:
Zach Duke 2009: 213.0 IP – 4.31 xFIP – 47.7% GB – 4.48 K/9 – 2.5 WAR – 26 years old
Zach Duke 2010: 159.0 IP – 4.48 xFIP – 48.0% GB – 5.43 K/9 – 0.4 WAR – 27 years old
Kevin Correia 2009: 198.0 IP – 4.20 xFIP – 44.8% GB – 6.45 K/9 – 2.5 WAR – 28 years old
Kevin Correia 2010: 145.0 IP – 4.19 xFIP – 48.9% GB – 7.14 K/9 – 0.1 WAR – 29 years old
So what do we have? Well, we have two pretty similarly mediocre starting pitchers for starters, Duke has youth and durability on his side while Correia has slightly better peripheral numbers in strikeouts and fielding independent pitching. Correia also has the added benefit of allowing a slightly lower percentage of ground balls than Zach Duke which is probably a good thing given the Pirates infield defense woes last season. Zach Duke just signed a 1 year/$4.5 million deal with Arizona and Kevin Correia just signed a 2 year/$4 million deal with the Pirates…seems about right, doesn’t it?
In this case I think that the decision to sign Correia essentially at the expense of Duke came down to four factors. First the FO wanted to make a legit run at signing someone better than Duke at twice the price but unfortunately they came up just short on de la Rosa. Secondly jettisoning Duke was simply a matter of getting rid of the devil that you know, I don’t put a lot of stock in the “stench of losing” nonsense that is tossed around the Pirates from time to time but if you are inclined to believe in that sort of thing then Duke definitely was covered in it. Thirdly, Opie and Co generally believe that Correia is a slightly better fit for the current staff by virtue of his higher strikeout rate and lower groundball rate, this is almost certainly true since we have previously seen that the FO puts a lot of stock into K/9 when making pitching decisions. And finally I have to think that the FO suspects that they may be getting Correia at a discount if his struggles last season were largely related to mental anguish in dealing with the unfortunate death of his brother…it isn’t a given that this was his problem last year but it certainly is a possibility and it is worth considering when trying to value Correia as a pitcher.