|Pittsburgh Pirates — No. 57|
April 19, 1983
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|July 2, 2005 for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
(through 2009 season)
|Earned run average||4.30|
|Career highlights and awards|
Duke was drafted directly out of Midway High School in Waco, Texas, in the 20th round of the 2001 draft, and began his career the following year with the Pirates' rookie level Gulf Coast League team. He spent 2003 with the low-A Hickory Crawdads.
In 2004, Duke led all minor league pitchers with a 1.46 earned run average (24 earned runs in 148.1 innings pitched). He posted a 15-6 record in 26 combined starts between Class-A Lynchburg and Double-A Altoona, and his 15 wins tied for third-most among all minor league pitchers.
Following the 2004 season, Duke was named Pittsburgh's Minor League Pitcher-of-the-Year and earned Carolina League Pitcher-of-the-Year honors. He was selected by Baseball America as the sixth-best prospect in the Eastern League and the best pitching prospect (fourth-best prospect overall) in the Carolina League. He was also recognized by the publication as having the best breaking pitch in the league.
Zach Duke made his major league debut on July 2, 2005 against the Milwaukee Brewers, striking out nine and receiving a no-decision in the Pirates 5-3 loss. His nine strikeouts were the most by a Pirate making their MLB debut since Tim Wakefield on July 31, 1992.
Duke's debut month included a 3-0 shutout victory against Greg Maddux and the Cubs on July 16 and 22 consecutive scoreless innings from July 2 to July 21. He was named National League Rookie of the month for July while compiling a 0.87 ERA, the best among all starting pitchers in the Major Leagues.
He became only the second Pittsburgh rookie to win his first 5 decisions, along with Whitey Glazner. He also became one of only four pitchers during the Live-ball era to record an ERA below 1.00 in their first six starts (the others being Fernando Valenzuela, Boo Ferriss and Steve Rogers).
Duke's first full season with the Pirates was as the new team ace, anchoring a very young rotation with Ian Snell. Duke had a number of good starts in the first half of the season, but many of them were undone by the Pirates' weak bullpen and lack of run support for Duke. The second half of 2006 was a re-emergence of the Duke that had dazzled Pittsburgh with his stuff from the previous year, and, on a side note, it was the first time the Pirates had compiled a winning record for a half of a season since 1992. Duke recorded 2 complete game efforts, the only 2 that Pittsburgh had all season. His first was a shutout of the Chicago Cubs on May 2, but he only had 2 strikeouts and a walk. His better effort was on August 11 against the St. Louis Cardinals. While he scattered 8 hits, Duke only allowed 1 run (it was earned), recorded no walks and 7 strikeouts. Duke also threw 11 fewer pitches than his previous complete game effort, and recorded 14 ground-ball outs. Duke's final line for the 2006 season was 10-15 with a 4.47 ERA and 117 strikeouts against 68 walks. Duke also became the first Pirates starter since Kris Benson in 2000 to throw more than 200 innings with 215 and 1/3 innings pitched.
In 2008 he gave up more doubles than any other pitcher in the majors, with 58, and more sacrifice hits, with 14.
Zach Duke was named to the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, replacing the injured Matt Cain. He finished off 2009 with a 11-16 record, with a 4.06 era, 3 complete games, 1 shutout, 23 home runs given up, only 3 hit batsmen, 49 walks, 106 strikeouts, .285 average against, 1.31 walks and hits per innings pitched, in 213 inning pitched.
Duke currently lives in Pittsburgh year-round.
He married Kristin Gross in Evansville, Indiana in November 2007. They met when she was an emcee for the Indianapolis Indians. She was a Kappa Alpha Theta at Butler University and also tried out for American Idol. His best man was Pirates closer Matt Capps.