He’s a 2! He’s a 4! How About He’s Just Good Enough?

8-17-21 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

You know, something strikes me when we talk about pitching here in Pittsburgh, specifically starting pitching. Everybody wants to label everyone some imaginary number, or give them some title like Ace.

So I was watching Steven Brault pitch against the Dodgers and commenting about how mature he looks, and almost immediately I’m met with “he’s a good number 4 or 5 nothing more”.

You’ve heard this I’m sure. Isn’t it funny how it’s always number 4 or 5? Never a 3. Nobody is ever a 2. It’ s Ace, 4 or 5, that’s the only possible place anyone who starts can land.

OK, so it annoys me for reasons just as stupid as the sentiment, sue me.

The fact is, if I had a starting rotation filled to the brim with Steven Brault’s I think I’d wind up pretty happy. He may not be an ace, but he’s going to give me a chance to win just about every single night.

Is that a 4 or a 5, I’ve lost track.

See, to me I just want to know if the guy is going to help me when he’s on the mound. I couldn’t care less if you call him a number. I don’t like Ace either. For instance, AJ Burnett was the Pirates Ace during the last run, probably a 4 o 5 on the Cardinals at the time. Did that make him less of an ace in your mind?

Gerrit Cole was drafted to be an ace, had the pedigree and the arm. The trouble in this market is, he’ll never reach his true ‘ace-ness’ if you will, before it’s time to move him. Yes, even Mark Cuban would not pay a 300 Million dollar ticket in this market. This bought him criticism aimed at his effort or some made sure they blamed Searage, in reality Cole pitched like a rookie, a good rookie, but a rookie. Slowly improved and looked like he had figured some things out by his 4th year, and then it was time. Maybe a year early.

Doesn’t mean Cole wasn’t good here, but if you think he ever reached ACE here, eh, I’m not sure I can get there.

Point is while you worry about what number a guy is, I’m thinking about how much I want to find some of those guys who just belong in the rotation.

Quinn Priester is the next expected ace, and he’s got just about everything you want. Presence, pedigree, repertoire and he’ll be here in a couple years. I expect when he does arrive he’ll do ok, but he won’t be the top of what his potential says he will. Chances are that takes a season or two, if it happens at all. In fact I’d be kinda surprised if he reached his full potential while here.

Oh I know, that’s not pleasant to think about, but if you want to know why I don’t get mad when it happens, it’s because I’ve long since prepared for it.

Sit there waiting for all these guys to come up and slot into your imaginary place in the rotation if you want, I’d rather just focus on having five I feel good about.

I’ll tell you what, even that method might be nuts. The way this team is handling it’s pitching staff, chances are starters don’t have as much to say about the rotation as they used to anyway. 5-6 innings (those are numbers that matter) and hand it off to the bullpen isn’t just the way the Pirates are headed, it’s how baseball is headed.

Want to know why? Oh sure to keep them healthy that’s part of it for sure, but it’s also because there aren’t a bunch of teams who can afford to pay 300 million for one guy even fewer who want to. Making pitching staffs more interchangeable reduces the value of those players and makes them more replaceable too.

Think about it. When is the last time you watched a no hitter where it didn’t feel like the pitcher was equally battling the opposing hitters and his pitch count? Hell, forget no hitters, think about how much the game has changed when you see a guy pitching a 7 inning 1 hitter pulled with 78 pitches. Nolan Ryan wouldn’t even have broken a sweat yet.

Craig wrote a great piece this morning about predicting the rotation and lineups a couple years from now. One of the things I think we’re all going to have to stop holding onto is the belief we’re just going to have a 5 man rotation and be done. I don’t just mean accounting for injury either. I think we’ll start to see teams heading into seasons with 8-10 guys who could really play a role.

You may not think Max Kranick is a number 2 or whatever, but you better bet on him being one of the guys who at some point will have to take the ball and, well, keep the ball rolling.

Hey, the whole 2,3,4 thing, that’s just a pet peeve of mine. The larger point, don’t be so willing to dismiss what a guy can offer this team just because he doesn’t fit where you think he should. And don’t discount the value of a guy like Steven Brault, there’s value in good, there’s value in consistent.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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