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To continue winning, the Pittsburgh Pirates must get length from starters

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For the Pittsburgh Pirates to maintain their success, their starters must make a habit out of pitching deeper into games.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are out to a fast start in 2018. The Bucs are 7-2 through the first nine games of the season and sit in first place in the National League Central, two games ahead of the Chicago Cubs who they visit for a series starting today.

The secret to the Pirates success has been the emergence of its offense, which currently ranks as one of the best in major league baseball.

Starting pitching has also been a factor. The unit is currently boasting a 3.14 ERA, good for second best in the NL. Each member of the rotation – Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault – have gotten the job done. However, going deep into games hasn’t been their forte.

Keep on pitching

A quality start is defined as a statistic belonging to a pitcher who goes at least six innings and allows three earned runs or fewer.

This season, going six or more innings has been a rarity for members of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ starting rotation. Taillon and Williams are the only two pitchers to do it.

Despite giving up only two earned runs on four hits in his season debut April 2, Taillon didn’t post a quality start in that outing since he only lasted 5.1 innings. However, he was locked in Sunday afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds as he threw his first career complete game shutout, allowing one hit while walking two and striking out seven.

The outing was his first quality start of the season. The secret to Taillon being able to go nine innings was the fact that he controlled his pitch count. Through nine Sunday, Taillon threw 110 pitches. In his season debut, he threw 92 in nearly four less innings.

Some of the other starters haven’t had the same success controlling their pitch counts and haven’t lasted long in many games because of it.

Nova, who is 0-1 with a 6.10 ERA in two starts this season, has yet to get past the sixth inning this season. He hasn’t missed many bats in his starts and has uncharacteristically struggled with command.

Kuhl has also yet to get past the sixth inning. He hasn’t been bad in his two starts, allowing six runs in 10.2 innings while walking three and striking out 11, but pitch count has again reared its ugly head.

The 25-year-old threw 85 pitches in 5.2 innings in his first start and had 98 pitches through five in his latest outing. He threw just under 55 of his pitches for strikes in each of those starts.

Aside from Taillon, Williams has arguably been the Pirates’ best pitcher. Williams is 2-0 this season with a 1.59 ERA. He posted a quality start in his first outing when he went six innings without allowing a hit.

Damned if you do…

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was criticized by a few for taking Williams out with his no hitter still intact. However, by looking at Williams pitch count, which sat at 85 through six innings, it was no secret why he was lifted. The 25-year-old struggled with command, throwing 42 pitches for strikes and walking five in the outing.

His second outing wasn’t a quality start as he only last 5.1 innings, but, again, he got the job done. He allowed just two runs on 10 hits while striking out four and limiting his walks to one. He threw more of his pitches for strikes and relied on his defense to get him out of some tough situations. Yes, it was a hit parade for the Reds, but when a team gets 10 hits, you expect the damage to be a little worse than it was. Williams kept the damage limited.

Brault, who has served in the rotation for the injured Joe Musgrove, has made one start this season. He allowed just one run on three hits while striking out four, but only went five innings due to his four walks. He threw 46 of his 80 pitches for strikes and while it didn’t fit the description of a “quality start,” it looked pretty solid to those watching.

The Pirates starters haven’t been bad by any means. So, maybe the idea of quality starts should be overlooked in some ways if guys are getting the job done through 5, 5.1 or 5.2 innings.

However, the issue here doesn’t revolve around what the starters haven’t been able to do through less than six innings. The issue surrounds the Pirates having to continuously rely on its struggling bullpen for three or more innings due to the starters’ inability to get past the sixth inning.

Bullpen woes

While the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation sits amongst the best in the league early in the year, the bullpen hasn’t had the same success. As a unit, the Pirates ‘pen has the fourth highest ERA in baseball (5.67) in 33.1 innings of usage.

Players such as Dovydas Neverauskas, Edgar Santana, George Kontos, Michael Feliz and even Felipe Rivero have four or more appearances so far this season and are boasting ERA’s above 5.00.

Neverauskas, Feliz and Rivero have proven to be unreliable in most cases, allowing four or more runs in four or less innings pitched this year. Neverauskas is sporting a 2.45 WHIP this season while Feliz and Rivero have compiled a WHIP of 2.00 and 1.64, respectively.

It’s believable to think the bullpen woes won’t last. The unit has a ton of talent within it and its youth has shown through the first nine games. If they do improve, maybe the Pirates will be better suited to maintain their success.

But while the starters have looked fairly solid through the first few games, going past the sixth inning and taking some pressure off the bullpen would be ideal.

 

Jose Negron is a news/sports reporter for the Mon Valley Independent newspaper in Monessen, Pa. He has contributed Pirates coverage for Rum Bunter and Pirates Breakdown for the last two years. Jose is a 2016 graduate of California University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Journalism.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Interview: Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Joe Block

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Today I had the pleasure of talking to Joe Block for the latest Locked on Pirates podcast.

The Pittsburgh Pirates found a good one when they brought in Joe Block to their announce team prior to the 2016 season. He graciously granted me some time for the Locked on Pirates podcast today while the club is in San Francisco. It was a lively talk that was very eye-opening in many ways. Here ya go:

 

 

Hear Joe’s thoughts on:

  • The role of analytics and advanced stats in his broadcast.
  • The maturation of Gregory Polanco
  • The “creaminess” of the current Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen,
  • And much more!

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

LOP’s Jason Rollison on ESPN Radio’s Adam Crowley show

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Locked on Pirates host Jason Rollison joined Adam Crowley of ESPN Radio in Pittsburgh to talk all things trade deadline. Listen in as they both try to process how the hell the Pittsburgh Pirates got Chris Archer

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

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Pittsburgh Pirates

The Corey Dickerson Dilemma

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The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is LIVE. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ nine-game winning streak has re-fueled a few hot topics going around in Pirates circles.

The latest episode of Locked on Pirates is here:

 

 

Today we talk:

  • The Corey Dickerson Dilemma
  • GM Speak and why it is sometimes necessary
  • Left-handed relievers that could be available

Pittsburgh Pirates fans – Subscribe, Rate, Review!

Locked on Pirates is the semi-daily Pittsburgh Pirates podcast of choice for discerning Pirates fans.

Jason Rollison from Bucs Dugout and others will help you through the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season.

You can help chart the podcast’s success by subscribing to our podcast and writing a review!

We are on every podcast app that ties into iTunes, so search for us! Or, if you’re on an Android or iOS device, please just click the links below to subscribe, and while there, why not leave a review?

Using something other than these three? Just search for “Locked on Pirates” in your podcast app of choice.

Continue Reading

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