The Pittsburgh Pirates worked magic with Chris Leroux. The 6’6″ Leroux is 27 years old, and when the Pirates grabbed him off waivers last year from the Florida Marlins, it seemed like just another typical pickup by Team Huntington.
It was just over a year ago – September 13 – when the claim was made for Leroux. In the God-awful season that was 2010, Pirate fans had grown accustomed to these “scrapheap” type announcements. They typically went like this:
“[Insert player name] is a hard throwing [right hander/left hander] with a downward plane that brings [hard velocity/a three pitch mix/other adjectives or ask scout for specifics.] The [insert height and name] made [insert number of appearances] with [name of shitty AAA club/ML team we grabbed him from while picking out a positive attribute--avoid ERA at all cost]”
Chris Leroux has been yet another positive acquisition for Neal “The Junkyard Dog” Huntington. It could easily be argued that the Canadian has been the best Pirates’ reliever over the last month. He has been nearly untouchable, and has an impressive 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings while dominating from the Pirates bullpen.
But strikeouts were never a weakness for Leroux; it was his walk rate, which was at least five walks per nine innings pitched. He has allowed 1.6 walks per nine innings this season and his WHIP is under one.
What a difference a year – and lowering his arm slot – has made for the 225-pounder from Winthrop College. Leroux was selected in the seventh round in the 2005 draft, and made a rapid climb to the big leagues. For the Pirates, Leroux has held the bad guys to a .206 batting average, and has given up runs in just two of his 17 appearances.
Leroux had expressed interest in being a starter, and Neal Huntington challenged him to get batters out in a relief role. Leroux has answered the challenge and is a bright spot for the Pirates in the second half of 2011.
Don’t be surprised to see Leroux get an opportunity as a starter again – it’s impossible to ignore his impressive work this year. Strikeout pitchers are not something the Pirates starting pitch staff has as a strength.
Beast Mode Leroux could change that in 2012.