Aaron Heilman and Todd Coffey appear close to signing deals with other teams, leaving the Rays an even thinner relief market with which to choose. The last remaining rock star is Chad Durbin, formerly of the Philadelphia Phillies, whom also spent time with the Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Detroit Tigers.
Throughout the first eight seasons of Durbin’s big league career, he was either rarely seen or working as a starter. Since 208, though, Durbin has more than doubled his career appearances total by showing up 194 times from the bullpen. During the stretch, he has struck out 1.92 batters per unintentional walk, while giving up a homer nearly every 11 innings.
He is not the typical reliever either, as he worked on zero days rest 45 times and threw multiple innings 72 times. For comparison, Grant Balfour threw on zero days rest 50 times and worked 62 games of multiple innings over the same time period, while Dan Wheeler threw 55 and 32 respectively. It’s not just because Durbin had a sub-1 leverage index either, as roughly half of his multiple inning appearances came during 2008, a year in which he appeared in more high leverage spots than low.
Two other hidden aspects of Durbin’s game are batted ball related. He’s a bit of a double play expert. He’s killed twins in 14% of the opportunities (since 2008), which is 3% more than league average. Chad Qualls is known as a double play maven and over the last three season’s he’s converted on 16%, so Durbin is right there. Durbin has also managed infield fly rates over 15% in two of his past three seasons. Durbin maintains those automatic outs without being much of a flyball pitcher too, which is a nice bonus.
It’s hard to explain what happened in 2009, as his walk rates soared to career worst levels as his strikeouts also went up. Pitch data has Durbin using his fastball (which sits in the low-90s) less often during his up years, while relying upon a cutter, curve, and changeup. Relievers generally do not toss four pitches with such regularity, but Durbin’s history as a starter affords him that advantage. He’s very effective against righties and if he could find a way to drop his walks versus lefties could be a worthwhile weapon there too.
Durbin won’t break the bank, but he would break camp with the team as a worthwhile addition.