The latest Orioles pitching acquisition is unheralded and over-performing Justin Duchscherer. Through his last 9 seasons as a middle reliever and starting pitcher, Duchscherer has struck out 6.8 batters per nine innings while also limiting walks (2.4 walks per nine innings). Duchsherer has a slow fastball clocking in at 85.9 mph but an extremely diverse array of pitches which he has excellent control over (2.85 strikeouts per walk). He has posted a 3.13 ERA over those same seasons, with a WHIP of 1.14. He uses every arrow in his quiver, throwing his fastball 43.3% of the time, a 82.5 mph cutter 19.7% of the time, a 70.1 mph breaking ball 26.7% of the time, a 82.7 mph slider 7.1% of the time and a  80.0 mph change-up 3.2% of the time. The graph below does an excellent job of highlighting Duchsherer’s control. The graph shows Duchsherer’s ability to locate his pitches on both edges of the strikezone and avoid the center of the plate from (0.5 to -0.5 feet). In this sense it is fair to compare Duchscherer to Gregg Maddux, one of the best pitchers of the last 25 years.

Duchscherer Strike Zone
Duchscherer Strike Zone

However, Duchsherer has had a storied history of injuries including hip issues in 2008 and elbow surgery prior to the 2009 season. These have kept him off the field for large parts of each of the last three seasons and limited his contributions. Still, because he doesn’t overpower hitters, the physical injuries are much less of a concern than they would be for another pitcher. Alas, the the same soft-tossing prowess that limits the effects of previous injuries on his ability also caps his upside. Orioles fans need to keep in mind that Duchersher is incapable of overpowering hitters and while he could be extremely useful he is not a front of the rotation pitcher. Baseball-reference.com lists Paul Byrd as Duchscherer’s most comparable pitcher by age. This seems to be a reasonable projection for Duchscherer as an Oriole and an efficient signing at $700K to $ 1.1M.