"Splitsville" is a series of articles on the Nationals' prospects that we'll be doing throughout their minor league careers. In version one/chapter one (v1.1) of Chad Durbin, we'll look how he did at home versus the road, how he pitched with runners in scoring position, and more, while pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs.
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The Background: Right-handed pitcher Chad Durbin was originally selected by the Kansas City Royals in the third round of the 1996 MLB Draft. Not considered a true prospect, Durbin entered the 2005 season with a 4.04 ERA in 741 career minor league innings, not to mention a 6.22 ERA in 331 1/3 innings at the Major League level. After spending time with the Royals and Indians, Durbin found himself in the Diamondbacks' organization before being signed by the Nationals in the winter of 2004.
Brutal Start: Considering his wealth of professional experience, nobody could have expected the remarkably rough start to Durbin's season in 2005. The now minor league free agent from the Nationals began the year 0-4 with a 7.26 ERA in his first 17 appearances for the New Orleans Zephyrs this past season, including giving up eight earned runs in his first game of the year, a bad omen of things to come.
However, Durbin righted the proverbial ship down the stretch and pitched more like the pitcher he had been throughout his minor league career. He went 4-1 with a 4.05 ERA in his final nine starts of the year, giving the Nationals at least some reason to consider re-signing him this offseason.
Dreadful Road: One of the more surprising numbers among Durbin's splits were his dreadful performances away from Zephyr Field. Durbin, who posted a somewhat respectable 4.50 ERA in 12 appearances at home, got tagged for a 6.68 ERA on the road. The reason? Durbin served up exactly twice as many home runs on the road as he did at home. In fact, he allowed over two home runs per nine innings on the road in 2005, a number not expected from a pitcher of his experience.
Durbin limited opposing Pacific Coast League batters to a .249 batting average at home, but opponents hit a robust .287 off of him on the road. His road performance at the AAA level this past season could be reason enough to reconsider bringing back in 2006.
More Success Against Righties? Judging just from his batting averages, Chad Durbin had a lot more success against right-handed batters this past season than he did against lefties, that much is true. He held opposing right-handed batters to a .257 batting average, which is a bad sign if that's his better number. Opposing Pacific League left-handed batters touched up Durbin for a .289 average.
But digging even deeper into his splits, it turns out that right-handed batters actually hit Durbin harder than lefties. Right-handed batters went for extra bases in 46% of the hits allowed by Durbin while lefties knocked just 39.1% of their hits off Durbin for extra-base. While the combined extra-base hit percentage was quite ghastly, Durbin's lack of success against right-handed batters in the power department tells the whole story of his disappointing season.
No More Starts, Please: Granted it was just six appearances, too small a sample size to make an accurate assessment, but Durbin had more success coming out of the bullpen than he did in a starting role for the New Orleans Zephyrs in 2005. He posted an ERA a full two runs lower as a reliever (3.97) than he did as a starter (5.97).
Opposing batters hit just .238 off of him out of the bullpen and .275 in games in which he started. Again, it is too small a sample size, but if the Nationals bring back Durbin, it should only to be as a reliever.
Not A Good Sign: The 28-year old right-hander did not pitch well in the critical situations, which is an understatement. Opposing batters, who hit .293 off of him with runners on base, turned it up a notch to the tune of a .318 batting average with runners in scoring position. If the Nats were to consider signing Durbin as a reliever, his performance in the clutch with New Orleans may have them rethinking that possibility.
Hanging Your Hat: It wasn't all bad news for Chad Durbin in 2005. He did wind up doing some positive things in what was overall a bad yar. 16 of the 24 home runs he served up did come with the bases empty, which is a "glass if half full" of way at looking at the splits. But what was very encouraging was his great deal of success with two outs.
Durbin, as we already mentioned, got lit up with runners in scoring position. But when push came to shove, he put the nail in the coffin at the most crucial times. He held opposing batters to just a .175 batting average with runners on base and with two outs and when there was runners in scoring position and with two outs, opponents hit just .156 off of him.
The question will be will his few positives outweigh the negatives enough to bring him back in 2006.
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