Signed in the offseason to little fanfare and a modest $2 million deal, fans and pundits didn’t much know what to make of 34-year-old lefty Brian Duensing.
In fact, our “Getting to Know” Duensing post was clearly a good-try-good-effort at discerning what the angle was for the Cubs in signing Duensing to a big league deal, and our conclusions were because he could probably do very well against lefties, and because it wasn’t a huge contract and he could be dumped with little pain if necessary.
A guy with a unique career arc, already well into his 30s, still not an established big leaguer, and getting a big league deal to join the bullpen of a team that really needed a lefty at the time. We couldn’t quite peg it at the time.
Fast forward to almost June, and here’s Duensing, not solely facing lefties out of the Cubs’ pen, and putting together a great start to his season. Credit the Cubs’ scouts on this one.
Through 17 appearances, Duensing has thrown 22.0 innings (again, clearly not just a match-up guy) and posted a 3.27 ERA, a 3.25 FIP, and a 3.07 xFIP. He’s striking out a very healthy 28.6% of the batters he faces, and walking just 5.5%. Know which Cubs relievers have a better K-BB spread than Duensing? Two, and you’ve heard of them: Wade Davis and Carl Edwards Jr. That’s it.
Oddly enough, in a small sample, he’s been far more effective against righties (.211/.262/.351) than lefties (.321/.367/.536) this year. It hasn’t really mattered, since he’s been used as a full inning (or more) guy, and he’s quietly done an excellent job, despite the howls of protest on Twitter when he enters the game.
I will point out, in fairness, that Duensing has *mostly* been limited to low leverage outings (17.0 of his 22.0 innings have been low leverage), though in the 3.1 innings of high leverage work he’s been given, batters haven’t done much of anything (.200/.273/.200).
This is all ultimately small sample stuff (most reliever work is, actually), but I thought it worth pointing out today. Dude’s been good.