May 20, 2010

The Pirates' Lights Out Bullpen

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / May 20, 2010

The problems with the '09 Pirates were legendary, chief among them being a lack of good baseball players. But really, the bullpen was the worst part of that team. Statistically the '09 relief corps was below replacement level, meaning that picking up any random guys would be better.

Calling that bullshit claim's bluff, Neil Huntington addressed the problem by picking up any random guys. Results have been great. The Pirates have quietly featured a lights out back end of the bullpen this season. Check it out:

Evan Meek - 26 innings, 7 BB, 27 K
Joel Hanrahan - 16 innings, 6 BB, 24 K
Octavio Dotel - 17.1 innings, 9 BB, 24 K, 1 sweet video

I worked for a year for a light switch company, so I know lights out when I see it.

Can you remember the last time the Pirates featured a bullpen with two set-up men and a closer who all struck out more than a batter an inning? You can't because it never happened. I say this with confidence despite having checked zero sources to verify that claim.

The Pirates clearly favor a pitch to contact approach for their starters but prefer relievers with swing and miss stuff. That's exactly right, as strikeouts are key to get through one inning and walks can be worked around. A Hanrahan type just doesn't work as well as a starter because unless the guy is totally unhittable, the pitch counts are just too high to get through six innings. Rich Harden, meet Yovani Gallardo.

Of course Meek can't and shouldn't keep up his 100+ inning pace, so a nice step for the rest of 2010 will be to add or develop a fourth back end guy. There are too many close games to use the same guys in all of them.

Brendan Donnelly comes off the disabled list today but has walked more than a batter an inning so far. D.J. Carrasco looks like a long reliever to me. Jack Taschner looks like an Indianapolis reliever. Javier Lopez now has a 2.25 ERA but is much more effective against lefthanded hitters.

I suggest that Charlie Morton can do the job. He has a fastball that's made for the late innings and he's not helping anyone by putting up a 9.68 ERA in the rotation. He wouldn't be the first guy that's great in relief, terrible starting. In fact Hanrahan and Dotel are failed starters themselves.

Even if Morton in relief doesn't materialize, Dotel/Hanrahan/Meek are a treat to watch.

1 comment:

  1. "the law firm of meek, hanrahan & dotel... case CLOSED!"