Remember Two Years Ago When The Pirates Pitching Was Formidable?

Experts consider the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff to be a big weakness in 2011.

No.  Seriously. The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff was very good statistically as recently as two years agoDon’t believe us?  Look. It was REVIVAL for God sakes.  Pass the offering plate dammit.

 

Too bad it didn’t last very long.  Fast forward to now and the Pirates pitching staff is having some measured early Spring Training success.  It has caused pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who was fired last season, to take some direct and indirect heat.  Does he deserve it?  We don’t think so, but it’s the nature of the beast.  Especially when Kerrigan had such early success, although brief, during his time in Pittsburgh. 

Kerrigan joined the likes of Spin Williams, Jim Colborn and Jeff Andrews as pitching coaches that, for whatever excuse, didn’t get it done in Pittsburgh.  We feel that very soon all of these discussions about the past will move entirely toward the future, especially with the difficult schedule the Bucs face early in 2011.   The Pirates pitchers will sink, tread, or swim early in this fast approaching season.

But know this about the 2011 Pirates organization, if the starting rotation doesn’t get it done, at least there are some young, viable options waiting to step up.  The Pirates pitching will improve, but it will be damn hard to match that fast start the Bucs pitching staff had in April of 2009.

Check out what Paul Maholm had this to say in that ESPN article: 

“Every year we go to spring training and it seems like there’s a new pitching coach telling us how the program is going to go and trying to put his stamp on us. It would be nice to get on a roll and hopefully have Joe around for a good while.” Paul Maholm

Maholm made a nice point, it must suck for him to learn from a new coach nearly every year. But watching Searage during this Spring Training work with the Pirates pitching staff is far from watching a change artist. He seems to be making common sense moves with each pitcher. There is absolutely nothing drastic about the approach of the new Pirates coaches, the only drastic thing that is needed is for the pitching to improve.  

Back in April 2009, the Pirates pitching staff had a sparkling 3.07 team ERA.  As you know, it faded, but on May 1  the Pirates pitching staff still had allowed less hits than anyone in the NL.   Zach Duke had a fast start.  Kerrigan, who had worked with legends like Pedro Martinez  and Randy Johnson, was being lauded as the second coming after the Bucs had pitched four shutouts in the first 13 games.  

Back then Kerrigan tinkered with Jeff Karstens delivery to add deception.  He adjusted Ross Ohlendorf’s mechanics and it worked fine.  Early in 2009, Ohlendorf was tossing zeros and went six innings repeatedly.   The information Kerrigan provided the staff was unmatched and something new along with his strings, dummies, and demands to pitch inside.  The pitchers were prepared.  The defense behind those pitchers dazzled as they turned double plays and scored at some of the highest levels in several fielding metrics.  The bullpen wasn’t spectacular, but most of them are long gone now anyway.

Of course, it all fell apart in 2009, or was ripped apart, or the opposition caught on– whatever your perspective may be on the topic.  But we know one thing, it would be great to see a few months of solid pitching in Pittsburgh once again.  We aren’t asking for much when we say that are we? 

Some of the same Pittsburgh Pirates pitchers who started strong in 2009, are still on this team.  Some of them aren’t–thank God and Neal Huntington for that.   But the ones that are, need to do the same in 2011.  

The time for making excuses is over.

 

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Topics: Jeff Karstens, Joe Kerrigan, Paul Maholm, Pirates Blog, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Pirates Blog, Ray Searage, Ross Ohlendorf

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