Slowly Building Up the Pirates Pitching Staff

Mitch Keller

It’s insanely early to try to decipher what exactly the Pirates are doing, or how the plan will culminate as the season opens in just about a month. That said, the first few games have given us a glimpse of at least what three other teams are doing versus the Pirates Approach.

Think back to the Spring Training 2.0 last season against the Indians, or Cleveland Baseball Team, or Spiders, or, well you get the point. The Indians starters were going 6 innings, 5 innings, the point being way more than the Pirates.

That trend continued early into the season and somewhere in the middle of September the pitchers began looking like a normal staff.

Here we are in a brand new spring and already we see the Pirates have starters going an inning while the competition is sitting around 2 innings if not more. Casey Mize went two innings yesterday, in fact so did Erasmo Ramirez. All while the Pirates used one pitcher to complete each inning.

I’m not a trainer, clearly. I’m no doctor, and I certainly don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of stretching out a pitching staff. All I have is what I see well, just about everywhere else, stacked side by side with what I see here.

Now, here’s a little transparency, the only reason this is on my mind is because last season the plan was at least started in the same fashion. I chalked that up largely to Spring being stunted and 2.0 being weird, and players coming back from injury. Legit, at this early stage, all that still applies.

That being said, I think its at least very likely the Pirates bring 13 pitchers north, and it’s extremely important that come April, 6 innings doesn’t only come on a 65 pitch super performance.

There are 8 pitchers in a 13 man pitching staff who patrol the bullpen and if your average start lasts 5 innings that’s upwards of 28 innings that need covered by those 8. Anyone who’s watched baseball for any length of time knows that getting 5 innings out of your starters 7 days in a row isn’t exactly typical so that number has a chance to blow up. Of course there will be weeks when that number is smaller too but to achieve that, you certainly have to stack the deck against it.

My other concern is that the primary motivation for this slow progression is almost assuredly to prevent injury, something that proved to not work last year. Could it have just been bad luck? Oh, sure it could, but numerous injuries to arms has been in play for the Pirates for a lot longer than Shelton and crew has been in town.

I’m really just asking a question here. What the Pirates have been doing to prepare the staff for the season hasn’t worked yet. So is it likely doing what they did last year will net different results? Are the Pirates the smartest guy in the room?

A quick look through the box scores from yesterday, I see one MLB club who only sent their starter out for a 1 inning start, Michael Wacha for the Rays. Normally I’d tell you absolutely I want the Pirates to do things like the Rays, but in this case, I’m not sure being an outlier is wise.

I understand this could be reading into something that isn’t a problem, but doing the math and assuming an inning or two gets added per week, this path gets them topping out around 6 and that’s if it doesn’t come with an associated pitch count. If this is the path, I really think they might need to consider bringing an extra pitcher out of camp and yes I know they wont require all 5 pitchers in the rotation at seasons beginning.

Hey, food for thought as we watch the early season contests. I’d love to hear what some of you think.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Slowly Building Up the Pirates Pitching Staff

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