Justin Duchscherer: The Missing Piece To The Phillies' Puzzle?

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Justin Duchscherer: The Missing Piece To The Phillies' Puzzle?
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

This past season, Philadelphia almost won a second consecutive World Series title. Almost.

The Phillies were a fantastic, diverse team. They had their sluggers, like Ryan James Howard, Rauuuuul, and Chase. They had their fair share of wheels, with J-Roll lighting up the base paths for 31 steals and a success rate of 80 percent.

Pitching wasn't exactly their strength, but their starters did a pretty good job, while the bullpen did their nightly job of screwing Philadelphia over. Last but certainly not least, they had good old Charlie. Charlie Manuel did a superb job of controlling this team, and, as thanks, Philadelphia Magazine named him the sixth most powerful man in the city.

So, the question is, where does this team go now? Who will lead them back to glory?

This offseason, Phillies analysis has been entranced in the open position at the hot corner. Everyone seems to be caught up in the debate of whether the Phils should sign Beltre, Figgins, or DeRosa. Even I found myself salivating over the thought of Figgy in red pinstripes or the Penn grad coming home.

However, as I sat there arguing with myself about this topic, I looked back at this season and I remembered the games that I had watched or attended when the pitchers completely broke down.

So, I did a little research, and I found out that the Phils starting pitchers combined for only 83 quality starts through the entire regular season. Thus, I believe that I have answered my own question. The missing piece to this puzzle is remarkably simple. The way for this team to be unstoppable is to sign one more high-quality, high-consistency starter. 

In my eyes, the offseason is about two things: improving you team and saving money wherever possible.

With those two steps in mind, Ruben Amaro Jr. could go in a number of different pitching directions this winter. He could invest in a major arm, such as Lackey, Harden, or maybe the Cuban kid Chapman. Another plausible choice would be to make a big trade for names like Halladay or maybe even "King" Felix Hernandez. 

On second thought, it would make much, much more sense to take the frugal approach and sign a low-risk, high-upside guy like Andy Pettitte or Jarrod Washburn. All of these obvious choices are out there.

There is one player, however, that is causing some fans, like myself, to scratch their heads.

His name is Justin Duchscherer, also known around the baseball community as "The Duke".

The Duke was just coming out rehab from elbow surgery when he aggressively sought help for his clinical depression. In fact, he actually put his baseball career on hold while dealing with this issue. Upon hearing this, I was shocked that someone would stop playing professional baseball while healthy. To me, it seemed unreal.

However, the truth is that many people, even athletes struggle with depression.

Just last season, a handful of players were diagnosed for anxiety-related problems. Amazingly, these players are big names around baseball, including Joey Votto, Dontrelle Willis, and even your 2009 Cy Young Award Winner, Zack Greinke.

In 2008, The Duke went 10-8 with a 2.54 earned run average and an All-Star Game invitation. In 2009 he did not step foot on a MLB diamond during a game because of elbow surgery and his depression. Justin was healthy the entire second half, but his anxiety obviously won that battle. 

The point that I am trying to emphasize is that "The Duke" is fully capable of returning to All-Star status. Plus, with not having thrown a pitch in an actual game through all of 2009, he will be unbelievably inexpensive. Win, Win.

Coming back to the Phillies, they became increasingly southpaw-heavy as the season wore on. Even after the signing of Pedro Martinez, the righty-lefty split was still 3-2. Now, Myers is gone, Pedro's return is questionable, and Moyer is sitting in a Philadelphia hospital, struggling to stay active much less pitch in the major leagues.

So, that leaves them with Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, and Joe Blanton. That is a 3-1 righty to lefty ratio! 

The obvious gap for this team is a starting pitcher, with the main absence being a strong righty. With third base still being without an occupant, it is expected that big money will be thrown that direction.

Thus, the task is as follows: Sign a right-handed pitcher for as little money as possible. Now, you tell me. Who fits that mold better than Justin "The Duke" Duchscherer?

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