The Starting Rotation Should Evolve Soon

4-20-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

JT Brubaker toed the rubber in the Pirates unofficial house of horrors last night, confident everything would finally come together for him. He pitched with a good pace, firing the ball back to Roberto Perez seemingly seconds after receiving it and had genuinely good stuff all night.

As is course with a JT Brubaker start, there was an exception, last night it was the second inning. A four run explosion exacerbated by walks and an admitted “losing of the zone” for an inning.

This happens, I’m not going to pretend it’s just JT that struggles to find and then keep hold of his zone, but I will say it’s for many what seperates a guy from being a serviceable pitcher and a dude that at some point can’t hold down a spot.

The Pirates owe themselves and fans (whether we want to see it or not) answers. Answers only come from asking questions and for a pitcher, that’s throwing innings. The Pirates gave Wil Crowe all last season to prove he was a rotation piece, and instead he proved he was a bullpen guy, and potentially a damn good one at that.

This club right now has options on the club who could easily step in and take a slot that isn’t well guarded. Dillon Peters has shown well in the pen, Roansy Contreras has certainly looked the part, even Miguel Yajure has held his own.

Point is, a guy like JT who has been given an opportunity to start 2 straight seasons in the rotation relatively uninterrupted is probably going to struggle to hold onto the position much longer if he doesn’t turn it around and in a hurry.

He’s not alone mind you, Mitch Keller is also struggling mightily despite the promise of his off season and Spring performances.

I understand if the Pirates have seen enough of any of these guys, but I’d caution, make sure you’ve seen enough. Make sure you don’t have lingering questions because a guy like Keller in particular, well he’s had more opportunity than his performance has dictated he should already. I say be sure, because you certainly aren’t going to play musical chairs with him again. Actual options are coming (some are here) and as painful as it is, at some point you aren’t developing talent to hold it back trying to turn water into wine.

Some of these guys could move to the pen, I mean Keller’s velocity and Brubaker’s stuff make you feel that might work, but the propensity to not be capable of working out of a jam, and the inability to avoid the blowup inning aren’t going to fare much better on the back end than they do on the front.

As fans go, oh my, I totally get why you don’t want to see it anymore, but nobody wants to be giving up another hopeless cause like Charlie Morton or Tyler Glasnow only to watch them be unlocked somewhere.

As we enter year 3 of watching these two guys in particular struggle with many of the same issues, in fact I could argue Brubaker was better before they tried to ‘help’ him improve, it’s fair to start wondering if Oscar Marin is the right guy here.

I ask again, who’s improved?

Wil Crowe? Well he was put in a better position for him if you ask me, but in an effort to be fair I’ll give you him. Who else? OK, who else in his entire tenure?

Is it just talent and this whole line of questioning isn’t fair? I mean, I guess you could say that, but every tangible improvement a player has made, it’s come in offseason work. Max Kranick took a huge jump last year because of his own work. Mitch Keller got the fan base and staff excited because of his own work. Dillon Peters worked on his own as well.

So, really, can anyone point to what Oscar Marin has positively impacted? Are strikeouts up? Anyone who’s had a problem nibbling stopped the practice? Can you think of a pitcher that used to leave meatballs up in the zone who suddenly figured out how to avoid it?

I guess you can go back to lack of talent, but Keller and Brubaker are fairly on par with pitchers in the system right now like Bolton and Priester. When they get here, what if they don’t look good either? Do we just keep using the same mantra that we can’t expect a coach to make chicken salad out of chicken scratch? Or maybe do we finally have to look at who’s coaching them?

Something that happens with a complete rebuild that includes even the coaching is they tend to circle the wagons to protect each other. It typically means you’re going to stink for a couple years so everyone kinda just gets each other’s back as they wait for talent. Well, Marin has some talent now, and I’m not saying he has to make Bryse Wilson look like Max Scherzer, but he should look like a guy who can get through 6 innings in under 120 pitches right? I mean that’s not asking for the sun and moon, that’s just give us some innings kid.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend I understand every aspect of what a pitching coach, let alone a pitching coach in this organization does. I’ll just say this, I’ve never seen a successful pitching coach who couldn’t point to some success stories, and not all of them were hall of famers mind you. Some were like, damn son, how did you make Jeff Locke an All Star? Holy hell, Randy Tomlin is actually a decent number 5! Where are those accomplishments? It’s year 3 and the 2 starters I talked about most in this piece have been here the entire time. One of them was sent down to work with a fixer who has since quit even after being offered an extension. Knowing Joel Hanrahan a little bit, I’d assume he had more issue with the pitching program than the position or offer. He took the high road on the way out, so we’ll never know if I’m right, but it sure looked that way as he took a seemingly lesser role with another club.

Maybe the best way to sum this up, I’ve seen more warning signs with Oscar Marin than I’ve seen signs of improvement.

Before you ask, no, he won’t be fired mid season. He’ll be fired after the season if at all.

At the end of the day, I’m just some blogger. I pay attention, I know what I see, but I don’t know what’s being discussed in that room. I can tell you every player I’ve spoken to claims to really like the direction and think the progression is there. I’m certainly not qualified to claim any of them are lying, or wrong, but I think I’m eminently qualified to ask, why aren’t we seeing some of it on the mound at the MLB level?

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “The Starting Rotation Should Evolve Soon

  1. 100%, and all the more while the Bucs have had TWO excellent catchers working with the pitchers these years. Like you said, we’re not looking for Marin to produce the 1990s Braves, just some guys improving.

    They seem to allow each pitcher to have different repertoires, and I’m not watching pitches closely enough to see whether there’s a pattern of locations or sequencing across all of the starters, but I doubt that too. So I don’t think it’s tactical, so to speak, but perhaps clinical.

    Liked by 1 person

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