This continues the grades which started this morning with the hitters. There is much better news here. The Pirates rank fifth in the National League and eighth in baseball with a 3.55 ERA, and almost every pitcher they've used has been impressive.
Joel Hanrahan: A
24 IP, 0-1, 1.52, 1.14 WHIP, 7.2 K/9, 14 Saves
Hanrahan has quietly become one of baseball's elite closers in his first year on the job. He amazingly has added velocity to his fastball which now averages 97 mph. He now uses his slider only 14% of the time (39% in 2010) which has resulted in a decreased strikeout rate. Joel has not required more than 13 pitches to get out of an inning since May 6. He hasn't blown a save this season, his only loss came on an unearned run, and he is fifth in MLB with 14 saves. Unless he gets lit up in June he will earn his first All-Star appearance.
Charlie Morton: A
68 IP, 5-2, 2.51, 1.37 WHIP, 4.9 K/9
Morton has been nothing short of a revelation this season. I was one of many people who thought he didn't deserve a rotation spot, and I am happy to be wrong. He has never thrown less than five innings and completed two games while averaging nearly seven innings a start. Charlie has gotten ground ball outs whenever he needed them, including a team-high 11 ground ball double plays. He permitted only two home runs. In previous years he struggled with men on base, but this year batters have hit only .228/.308/.254 off Morton with men on. This is the breakout year Morton and the Pirates needed.
Daniel McCutchen: A
23 IP, 1-1, 1.19, 1.02 WHIP, 4.4 K/9
With numbers like these there's nothing to do other than give Daniel McCutchen a grade of A. He didn't even make the club out of spring training, but was quickly called up and has been deployed in every situation imaginable. He has had two one-batter appearances and four of two innings or more, and has been used in every inning from the fourth through the ninth. Through it all, he showed impeccable control and often got out of innings in ten or fewer pitches.
Paul Maholm: A-
71 IP, 2-7, 3.18, 1.18 WHIP, 6.1 K/9
Won-loss record aside, Maholm is having the best year of his career. Batters have hit only .225/.293/.322 against the lefthander, all career best marks. He also has upped his strikeout rate despite throwing his fastball at only 88 mph. Maholm is having an All-Star season but unfortunately the Pirates scored only six runs in his seven losses. Be assured that the league has taken notice, and Maholm will bring a considerable return if the Pirates trade him this summer as has been widely speculated.
Kevin Correia: A-
71 IP, 7-4, 3.44, 1.19 WHIP, 3.8 K/9
I've never seen a pitcher be this effective while striking out so few batters, but Correia has done it all year. He leads the league in wins and has already allowed zero runs three different times this year. Correia also has shut down the running game, allowing only four steals. He even pitched a scoreless inning in relief between starts during the first homestand. When Kevin was named to start on Opening Day, many people probably thought he didn't deserve to be the ace of a rotation. Yet thus far he has been one of three aces for the Pirates.
José Veras: A-
21 IP, 1-1, 2.53, 1.13 WHIP, 12.7 K/9
With Evan Meek injured, Veras emerged as a lights out setup man in Pittsburgh. So far he has struck out over a third of batters while holding righthanded hitters to a .149 batting average. Unlike most relievers, Veras has three plus pitches: a 94 mph heater, a split-fingered fastball, and his out pitch, a big curveball which he throws 38% of the time.
Jeff Karstens: B+
50 IP, 3-4, 3.58, 1.29 WHIP, 7.2 K/9
Karstens was great in long relief and like he does every year, earned the fifth starter role. In eight starts he allowed two or fewer earned runs five times. Karstens also is striking out batters at a career high rate while walking them at a career low rate (2.0 BB/9). His only problem has been the home run; he has allowed one every five innings. The word is that Ross Ohlendorf will regain his rotation spot when he comes back from injury, pushing Karstens back into long relief.
Chris Resop: B
24 IP, 1-1, 4.13, 1.33 WHIP, 10.9 K/9
Relying on a 93 mph fastball with movement, Resop is second on the team in strikeout frequency and along with Hanrahan, Veras, and Evan Meek, gives the Pirates a potentially lights out back end of the bullpen. Not many teams can deploy four righthanders who all can strike out over a batter an inning. Resop recovered from a poor stretch in the first half of May but has apparently been demoted from his setup role with Meek's return. He needs to cut back on walks.
Joe Beimel: C
13 IP, 0-1, 5.40, 1.50 WHIP, 6.8 K/9
Between disabled list stints, Beimel featured the most intimidating entrance music I've ever heard (Johnny Cash's "God's Gonna Cut You Down"). His ERA is misleading as he had 14 good appearances and four bad ones. He held lefties to a .200/.231/.280 batting line but struggled when he was left in to face strings of righthanded hitters. Bonus points for being the only pitcher I've ever seen who went all out on his warmup pitches.
James McDonald: C-
53 IP, 3-3, 5.23, 1.50 WHIP, 7.6 K/9
After two months as the Pirates' best pitcher at the end of last season, McDonald got off to a terrible start and had a 10.12 ERA through four starts. Since then he has pitched quite well, with a 2.60 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. McDonald's ERA should continue to decrease throughout the season, but he needs to walk fewer batters and go deeper into games to be a #1, #2 or #3 starter.
Mike Crotta: F
11 IP, 0-1, 9.28, 2.34 WHIP, 5.9 K/9
There's nothing to say here, Crotta simply got lit up. As I speculated before the season, Mike just wasn't ready for a major league role. In his last five appearances here he retired only three of 13 batters. He throws a 93 mph fastball but major league batters knew it was coming and hit it. To succeed in the major leagues he needs to add another breaking pitch and add movement to his fastball.
Evan Meek: Incomplete
10 IP, 0-1, 4.50, 1.80 WHIP, 10.8 K/9
Meek looked hurt to me while he struggled early. He's pitched two scoreless innings since returning from injury while appearing to regain his All-Star form. Because of his injury and the fact that over half his runs were allowed in one game, I won't judge Meek so far.