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.
– 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.