The Pirates could be scrambling for innings eaters in 2012
The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to build off an encouraging 2011 season. The biggest positive about last year’s team was the performance of the pitching staff. Charlie Morton, Jeff Karstens, and James McDonald all put up solid years and are looking to improve in 2012. The Pirates lost Paul Maholm, but they brought in Erik Bedard to compensate, and their rotation will be filled out by Kevin Correia (or possibly Brad Lincoln), who isn’t a bad option as a number five guy.
But how many innings can the Pirates get out of these guys? When you start looking at this staff more closely, things get a little bit dicy. In the following chart, you’ll see each pitcher and how many innings they have pitched over the last five seasons. These numbers represent major league and minor league innings.
If you aren’t a little bit apprehensive about some of that, you’re missing something. First of all, Bedard hasn’t pitched anything close to a full season since 2007. In addition to that, Karstens, Morton, and McDonald all pitched more innings than they ever had before last year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but that could certainly put some more strain on their arm as they get through the long 2012 summer. It’s especially worrisome in Morton’s case since he’s already recovering from a hip injury (fortunately that’s a lot less discouraging than elbow or shoulder surgery). Correia should be okay, he missed a good bit of time at the end of the year which could prove to have given him enough rest to make it through an entire 2012 season. The Pirates will most likely need him for nearly a full season, since I don’t think anybody is banking on everyone else staying healthy all year.
The good news is that the Pirates have guys ready to step in if and when some of these guys go down. None of them are world-beaters, but guys like Brad Lincoln, Jeff Locke, Jo-Jo Reyes, and even Shairon Martis are guys that have the ability to get big league hitters out at a somewhat competent rate (knock on wood).
If the Pirates starters stay relatively healthy in 2012, this could be a decent pitching staff. Bedard is as solid a top of the line starter as the Pirates have had in awhile (which isn’t saying much), and Morton and McDonald could improve even more off of last year. Karstens was one of the best pitchers in the league the first half of last year and should have a lot of confidence going into 2012. Correia is in a low-pressure situation and will be playing for a contract, so that can only add up to good things. Again, this rotation could be okay, but a lot of it comes down to health, that’s going to be a huge factor in how this team performs this season.