Article By: Jim Falbo | @BuccoSharkTank
For my first series of articles I will do a brief position by position analysis of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
One of the biggest contributors to the success of the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates was their “Shark Tank” bullpen. Pirates relievers combined to post a 2.89 ERA in 545.2 innings, third best in the MLB.
The Pirates have 8 relievers competing for 7 spots. Closer and 2013 All-Star Jason Grilli (33 SV, 2.70 ERA) will again make the 9th inning “Grilled Cheese Time” for the Pirates. Grilli was dominant when healthy for the Pirates, effectively using his fastball and wipeout slider to post a 13.32 K/9. 2013 All-Star Mark Melancon (16 SV, 1.39 ERA) owns one of the games nastiest cutters and will resume his role as the primary set-up man. The Pirates not only boast a top notch late inning tandem, the flame throwing Justin Wilson (2.08 ERA) and Tony Watson (1.19 ERA after May) give the Pirates two lefties who effectively get both LH and RH hitters out. Those four are all locks to make the team.
The competition for the final three spots can be whittled to four pitchers who are out of options. Stolmy Pimentel was a starting pitcher with Altoona and Indianapolis last season, and management considers him as a future starting pitcher for the Pirates. He has a fastball that touches the high 90’s, and his secondary stuff is good but his command is sometimes lacking. With his ability to pitch multiple innings coupled with his powerful arsenal, it appears that Pimentel has a spot locked up in the bullpen. Vin Mazzaro (2.81 ERA) pleasantly surprised the Pirates with his stellar performance in 2013. However, with the potentially crowed bullpen scenario in 2014 he was looked at as a possible non-tender candidate this offseason, but agreed to a $950K/1yr deal. That the Pirates tendered him a contract despite him being out of options, seems indicative that he’ll be given an inside track for a roster spot.
Jeanmar Gomez (3.35 ERA) pitched well while seamlessly transitioning to variety of roles in 2013 including making 8 spot starts, pitching in long relief, and even some short relief. But Gomez doesn’t have great stuff or great control, nor does he have a track record of success, sporting a career 4.59 FIP and 4.41 xFIP. Bryan Morris (3.46 ERA) is very tantalizing, he has good fastball velocity and a hard slider, but doesn’t miss man bats (5.12 K/9). Pitchers with Morris’ high caliber of stuff are usually given every opportunity to succeed. Morris’ potential along with Pimentel’s ability to pitch in a variety of roles, potentially filling Gomez’s 2013 role, lead me to believe that Jeanmar Gomez will be the odd man out of the 2014 Shark Tank. Of course, a trade, or an injury could change that in an instant!
Depth options: Jared Hughes, Duke Welker, Andrew Oliver (out of options), Yao-Hsun Yang, Zack Thornton, Jake Brigham, Cody Eppley, Jay Jackson, Josh Kinney, Daniel Schlereth, Adam Wilk, Seth McClung, and Colin Balester.
2013 Facts and Figures:
Among MLB relievers who pitched at least 50 innings…
~Mark Melancon’s 1.39 ERA and 60.3 GB% were 6th best, his 1.01 BB/9 was 2nd best, and his 0.13 HR/9 was the best rate.
~Melancon also finished 3rd with both a 1.64 FIP and a 2.05 xFIP.
~Jason Grilli’s 13.32 K/9 was the 3rd best rate.
~Justin Wilson FBv of 95.3 MPH was 17th among MLB relievers, but more impressively he was 3rd among LH relievers trailing only Reds RP Aroldis Chapman and Rays RP Jake McGee.
~Tony Watson finished 6th in the MLB with a 0.88 WHIP.