Bucco Bullpen Report 4/23/15

pirates bullpen april 23

A look at the Pirates’ bullpen usage through 16 games. Green = good, relative to the rest of the bullpen; red = bad. 

Tony Watson, as usual, has 1) been good and 2) been relied upon. Tied for the most relief appearances in baseball, he’s pounding the strike zone and has yet to issue a walk. His two-inning save against the Cubs on Wednesday night was particularly important/impressive. The two killers for Watson: Todd Frazier‘s home run on Opening Day, and Welington Castillo‘s home run on Tuesday night, hence the not-great ERA/FIP so far. Other than those two, however: spotless.

Jared Hughes struggled on Wednesday night, but otherwise has been a horse. He’s actually striking people out — it took him 21 appearances to collect 10 K in 2014, but he’s already accomplished that through nine outings so far. Pair that with his usual dose of ground balls, and Hughes has been an important bridge from the starters to late-inning relievers in the early going.

Arquimedes Caminero‘s name is familiar to Pirate fans by now, thanks to his flame-throwing right arm. Not only is he getting called upon often, he’s getting the job done (for the most part). Caminero’s getting a ton of strikeouts and ground balls, and his role may only increase from here.

mark melancon

– After being a sure-thing in his first two seasons as a Pirate, Mark Melancon‘s early performance has been concerning to say the least. His ugly velocity loss has been well-documented, while his strikeouts are down and walks are up. Melancon was more effective on Thursday afternoon — he was locating particularly well, and velocity isn’t everything if you can do that… but it’s still a very notable trend to keep an eye on moving forward. They’re saying he’s healthy and will keep his job, but if he’s not, that’s a serious problem for both Melancon and the Pirates.

– Where is Antonio Bastardo? He’s faced only 15 batters thus far, nine of which came in low-leverage situations. There was a need for Hurdle to have a second lefty in his bullpen, but there seems to be a lack of trust early on… This report via Rob Biertempfel late in spring training wasn’t exactly glowing: “A longtime NL scout, who has watched Antonio Bastardo from Class A to the majors, wonders if the lefty can handle pressure situations. “If he comes into the game when you’re either two runs ahead or two behind, his stuff is excellent,” the scout said. “However, when he comes into a tie game or you’re one run ahead, he tries too hard, and he walks everybody. It drives you crazy, and that’s why he was available. To me, he’s better in the middle (innings) than he is as a setup or closer.” There’s a dramatic split between Bastardo’s numbers in low-leverage (.116 BAA, .353 OPS, 3.83 SO/BB) and high-leverage (.270 BAA, .844 OPS, 1.60 SO/BB) roles.”

The Pirates will head out to Arizona to begin a nine-game road trip on Friday.

Go Bucs

Starling Marte & The Longest Home Runs at PNC Park

starling marte

Entering Friday’s game, Starling Marte had collected just three hits in his first 29 bats of the 2015 season while carrying a hideous 42.4% strikeout rate. He was bumped down to the sixth spot of the lineup, but managed to do some good things: infield hit, stolen base, a pair of runs scored… and he obliterated one to a place where baseballs simply don’t travel at PNC Park.

The cure? Jonathan Broxton. The Bucs continued their domination of the right-handed reliever, scoring three runs against him in the bottom of last night’s eighth inning. Broxton’s career ERA at PNC Park now sits at 14.44 … after serving this 92 mph fastball on a platter to Marte:

starling marte vs jonathan broxton

The landing spot:

starling marte home run

You don’t see that often. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker: 460 feet. That would be the longest at PNC since 2006 — when Home Run Tracker started — just two feet shy of Carlos Guillen‘s 462-ft shot off Ian Snell on 7/2/2006.

pnc park longest home runs

Here’s a map of the last 250 home runs at PNC Park…

longest home runs pnc park

That ball was tanked. Hopefully it gets Marte going back in the right direction.

Go Bucs

Caminero, Melancon & Early Velocity Changes

arquimedes caminero pirates

You really don’t want to read too much into stats this time of year — we’re not even 10 games into the new season, and everyone should know that anything can happen in that small of a sample. We’re still at the point where if you complain about Andrew McCutchen‘s .207 batting average, you need to realize he could be up to .303 with a 4-for-4 performance tomorrow night.

But there are some interesting trends to keep an eye on, especially considering the Bucs’ 3-6 start. They haven’t drawn a walk since Saturday (it’s been a whopping 40 innings) and they’re not exactly making opposing pitchers work, for example. Another has been the velocity of two Bucco relievers: Arquimedes Caminero and Mark Melancon.

Continue reading “Caminero, Melancon & Early Velocity Changes”

Breaking Down the Josh Harrison Contract Extension

josh harrison contract extension

On Monday, Josh Harrison returned to his hometown of Cincinnati to make his first Opening Day start, collecting two hits (including a double off Johnny Cueto) and picking up where he left off in 2014. On Wednesday, he was rewarded with a four-year contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh until at least 2018.

Here’s the official breakdown of the deal:

2015 – $2.8 million

2016 – $5 million

2017 – $7.5 million

2018 – $10 million

2019 – $10.5 million club option; $1 million buyout

2020 – $11.5 million club option; $500K buyout

Continue reading “Breaking Down the Josh Harrison Contract Extension”

Strengths & Weaknesses Within the NL Central

pittsburgh pirates st louis cardinals

After a long, cold winter, we’re getting awfully close to Opening Day 2015. The National League Central looks to be one of the more competitive divisions in baseball this season — all five teams could hang around for a while, and at least three might be vying for a postseason spot come September.

This division has a lot of intriguing players who will put their respective teams in a position to compete. FanGraphs did a rundown of their positional rankings last week, ranking how all 30 teams stack up position-by-position based on wins above replacement projections. Team WAR totals by position can be found HERE. While there isn’t a perfect correlation, their WAR projections are typically a strong indicator of success, as Jeff Sullivan wrote in December.

Using FG’s depth charts/team WAR totals, I broke each position on each team into percentiles (based on all of MLB) and displayed the NL Central on some radar charts below. Each position includes bench playing time — for example, the Pirates’ projected wins above replacement at second base isn’t just Neil Walker; it’s Walker (2.9 WAR in 525 PA), Jung-Ho Kang (0.4 WAR in 140 PA), and Sean Rodriguez (0.1 WAR in 21 PA).

Let’s take a look, starting with our Bucs…

Continue reading “Strengths & Weaknesses Within the NL Central”