The Pittsburgh Pirates 2022 Pitching Staff: All Arms On Deck

Mitch Keller

3-26-22 By Craig W. Toth (aka @BucsBasement On Twitter)

In 2021 the Pittsburgh Pirates used 35 pitchers-including 17 different starters-to navigate 1396.1 innings across the 162 game-101 loss-season. On the year only four pitchers-JT Brubaker, Wil Crowe, Tyler Anderson and Mitch Keller-totaled more than 100 innings, with Brubaker on top at 124.1. Of course this was before he ended up on the IL due to inflammation in his right shoulder. Out of the bullpen, Chris Stratton accumulated 79.1 innings in a team high 68 appearances. Following close behind him was Duane Underwood, Jr. with 72.2 innings in 25 less games. Like Brubaker-and on the exact same day no less- Underwood, Jr. also found his way to the IL with right shoulder inflammation.

Obviously the number of pitchers it took for the Pittsburgh to get through the season, as well as the innings they accumulated, had something to do with the effects of the shortened 2020 season. However, on the season there were 88 pitchers who tossed more innings than the Pirates leader, JT Brubaker, so this can’t be used as an overarching excuse; something I’ve been guilty of myself to a certain degree. Yes it was a factor, but it wasn’t the only one. Ultimately it comes down to the Pirates pitchers being more efficient and way more effective; especially at the start of every contest.

Last season Pittsburgh’s starting rotation earned the fewest number of quality starts in Major League Baseball with 25; which works out to a Pirates pitcher lasting 6 innings, while giving up 3 or fewer runs, a mere 15% of the time. Averaging only 4.7 innings per start these aren’t really stats that should surprise. Also, it should be noted that as a group they posted the second worst ERA (5.53) and WHIP (1.48), with a FIP (4.96) that only moved them up to 27th.

Out of the bullpen, the Pirates relievers did not fair much better; although at times they showed glimpses of success. Over the first month of the season the Pirates Bullpen had a combined 3.57 ERA, a 1.07 WHIP, 108 strikeouts to 33 walks and mostly importantly a 1.69 WPA (Win Probability Added). For reference an average WPA starts at 1.0, with an above average WPA kicking in at 2.0. Yet, by the end of the season the Pirates relievers found themselves with 4.55 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 641 strikeouts to 307 BB and -.21 WPA.

Clearly there is plenty of room for improvement from both the starters and relievers on the Pirates; however, before we try to figure out the best pitching options for the 2022 season, it only make sense to see what has changed by looking back at last year’s staff.

2021 Pittsburgh Pirates

Starters

Rotation Regulars

  • JT Brubaker (IL 9/5)
  • Mitch Keller (Triple-A 6/12-7/30)
  • Tyler Anderson (Traded 7/28)
  • Wil Crowe (Team High 25 Starts)
  • Chad Kuhl (Non-tender 11/30)

Next Men Up/Spot Starters

  • Chase DeJong (Free Agent 11/7)
  • Max Kranick
  • Bryse Wilson (Acquired 7/30 then IL 9/19)
  • Trevor Cahill (IL 6/12 then FA 11/3)
  • Steven Brault (DFA 11/29)
  • Dillion Peters

Cups of Coffee

  • Miguel Yajure
  • Connor Overton (Free Agent 11/7)
  • Cody Ponce (Released 11/29)
  • Roansy Contreras

With the array of injuries, demotion(s) and trades it’s no wonder the Pirates ran through 17 different starters in 2021; leaving Wil Crowe as the lone man to last the entire year.

Following the season the Pirates parted ways with Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, Trevor Cahill, Connor Overton, Cody Ponce and Chase DeJong. Between them, that’s 42 starts 150+ innings that will need to be replaced.

Bullpen

The Reliables

  • Richard Rodriguez (Traded 7/30)
  • David Bednar
  • Chris Stratton
  • Duane Underwood, Jr. (IL 9/5)
  • Chasen Shreve (Free Agent 11/5)
  • Sam Howard

Next Men Up

  • Clay Holmes (Traded 7/26)
  • Kyle Keller (Free Agent 11/7)
  • Nick Mears
  • Kyle Crick (Released 7/24)
  • Luis Oviedo (Mr. Rule 5)
  • Anthony Banda (Claimed 8/2)

Cups of Coffee

  • Shea Spitzbarth (Free Agent 11/7)
  • Sean Poppen (DFA 5/13)
  • Austin Davis (Traded 7/30)
  • Shelby Miller (Free Agent 11/3)

The Pirates Bullpen was even more of a motley crew than the starters, if you can believe it. On the year, the only thing that became abundantly clear was that the team had a regular closer in the form of David Bednar.

2022 Pittsburgh Pirates

Before we get started on the 2022 MLB Season, please keep in mind that these are simply projections as to who I think will be the primary options for the season. Although, it seems that some things are starting to sort themselves out as Spring Training progress.

Starters

Rotation Regulars/Projected Starting Rotation

  • Mitch Keller
  • Bryse Wilson
  • JT Brubaker
  • Zach Thompson
  • Jose Quintana
  • Wil Crowe

Next Men Up

  • Dillion Peters
  • Miguel Yajure
  • Chase DeJong
  • Roansy Contreras
  • Max Kranick

Cups of Coffee

  • Cody Bolton
  • Adonis Medina
  • Trey McGough
  • Omar Cruz

All off-season Pirates Fans have been looking forward to Ben Cherington signing the Free Agent starting pitcher that he’s been talking about. But, what if he already did? Or maybe he traded for him?

Jose Quintana isn’t what he used to be. At best he’s Tyler Anderson, and gets traded by the deadline. At worst he is Trevor Cahill, which means you won’t have to worry about him beyond May or June; just in time for Yajure and Kranick to be healthy, or Contreras to be warmed up.

Zach Thompson is the MLB ready piece from the Jacob Stallings Deal, who looked pretty good in a small sample size last year with the Marlins.

And oh yeah, Chase De Jong is back.

Bullpen

The Reliables

  • David Bednar
  • Chris Stratton
  • Heath Hembree
  • Anthony Banda
  • Duane Underwood, Jr.
  • Sam Howard

Next Men Up

  • Aaron Fletcher
  • Eric Hanhold
  • Austin Brice
  • Jared Eickhoff
  • Blake Cederlind (60 Day IL)
  • Nick Mears (60 Day IL)

Cups of Coffee

  • Hunter Stratton
  • Beau Sulser
  • Blake Weiman
  • Luis Oviedo
  • Yerry De Los Santos

Outside of David Bednar, the rest are somewhat of a crap shoot. Stratton is serviceable and remains a trade piece, Hembree is solid veteran option and Underwood, Jr. can’t be asked to pitch his arm off again.

I have Cederlind listed as a reliever, even though he wants to be a starter. The reason for this is, that by the time he completes his rehab and gets ramped up, the bullpen is the most likely landing spot to limit his innings.

Conclusion

There are four starters that I’ll be keeping a close eye on to start the season; Keller with his velo jump, Brubaker trying to put it together for a full season, Thompson getting a longer look and Wilson possibly benefiting from a change of scenery. Add Crowe in because of how he finished off 2021; along with the fact that I could see him making a favorable transition to the bullpen. As the year progress, I’ll be waiting on Contreras, Yajure, Kranick and the like.

As far as the bullpen is concerned, it’s all about Bednar; and, possibly finding a diamond in the rough, or good trade partner. Beyond that, things will most likely sort themselves out; as the pitchers potentially get pushed out of the starting rotation, Cherington continues to watch the waiver wire and hopefully some prospects earn promotions.

Published by Craig W. Toth

Former Contributing Author at InsidethePirates.com, Co-Host of the Bucs in the Basement Podcast and life-long/diehard Pittsburgh Pirates Fan!

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