In a Spring Training where players like Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Hermida, and Lucas May have all already been forgotten about as Brewers non-roster invites, it was easy to overlook any of the probably-washed-up-veterans in camp. As it turned out, we were right to do so. Even those who made the roster (Lyle Overbay, Mark Reynolds) were awful for much of the year.
There was one notable exception, though, and it's the reason why these players were in camp -- with the hope at least one would pan out as worthwhile. It's the Doug Melvin dumpster-dive special. That one exception was Zach Duke, who came in on a minor league deal after coming off a mostly-dreadful season with the Nationals and Reds (though he was pretty good with the latter).
And Duke may have been one of Melvin's best finds yet. The 31-year-old saw action in 12 games this past spring, and, had the Brewers had a deeper bullpen, might not have made the major league team for the regular season. In those 12 games, he had a 3.38 ERA and 1.59 WHIP while allowing opponents to hit .289.
Duke did make the team, though, and he should have been an All Star. He pitched 74 games for Milwaukee and had a 2.45 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He struck out 74 batters in 58.2 innings while walking just 17. He was arguably the best reliever on the team for most of the year, and one of the best in the league.
Doug Melvin has made a living finding Derrick Turnbows and Dan Kolbs and Scott Podsedniks and so on and so on. Duke has added his own name to the Melvin's list of diamonds in the rough after an amazing 2014 season.
I don't know. I mean, Duke is a reliever and worked as a lefty-specialist often. I guess statistically, his best game was probably July 22 against the Reds when the Brewers won 4-3. Duke pitched the eighth inning of that game when it was still tied 3-3 and struck out the side without allowing a hit or walk. He actually had four innings this year where all three outs were strikeouts, but that was the only one where he didn't allow a base runner.
By WPA his best game came June 24 in a loss to the Nationals. He pitched two innings that day with the game tied and struck out two while allowing just one hit.
Duke is a free agent, having been in town on just a one-year deal. After such a great year, he figures to be in for a nice raise. The Brewers will likely want to retain his services, but they'll certainly have competition.