Who Will Save Pittsburgh Pirates Starting Rotation?
By Tom Smith
The Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitching staff not named A.J. Burnett seems in a bit of trouble. The starts are weak and the bullpen rapid resuce squad has been struggling a bit, but thanks to a never-say-die offense, not many people have noticed.
Of course as usual, The Neal Huntington Show happened yesterday and we listened for some possible answers. One thing stood out to us as the Pittsburgh Pirates GM spoke during his weekly show. It was a sentence from Huntington when discussing the promotion of players to the Major Leagues.
"We are going to probably be criticized for moving guys slowly."
It’s not past tense–Huntington used present tense. We can only surmise that expecting Gerrit Cole to join the beleaugered starting rotation of the Pirates isn’t going to happen very soon. Cole has made six starts in Triple-A going 29.1 innings–or not quite five innings per start and has walked 17 while striking out 21.
It resembles what has happened to the starters in Pittsburgh But wait…the Buccos starters have allowed the fewest hits of any starting five in all of baseball! Yeh, because the starters have only gone 156.2 innings, or a tick over 5 innings per start. The Pirates starters are 17th in MLB in strikeouts. But 40% of those punchouts belong to the man named A.J. Burnett.
So could Gerrit Cole be on his way to save the day? It doesn’t seem like it’s imminent after listening to Huntington.
The Bucs GM had this to say about the number one pitching prospect in their minor league system.
"He’s become too secondary."
Huntington attributed the reliance on secondary pitches as a way that Cole is desperately wanting to show the organization he belongs in the bigs. We must admit, this breaking ball does look pretty dirty.
Well, Bob Nutting and the boys aren’t biting. While Huntington said he was pleased with the progress, it was also easy to decipher a ‘save the day’ call for Gerrit Cole won’t be happening any time soon.
It’s especially concerning when you look at the damage left-handed batters have done against the 6’4″ righty. Like this video of Jordan Lennerton going deep (really deep) off Cole. It was the lone longball Cole has allowed this season.
Walks, hits and seven of the eight earned runs.
So it appears that Francisco Liriano will be relied upon to be the latest pitcher to rescue a staff that struggles to get into the sixth inning. Liriano pitched well in his rehab starts, consistenently flashing a lot of punchouts.
But don’t look at Liriano’s last ten starts in 2012. The southpaw averaged, you guessed it, five innings per start.
With Charlie Morton the next in line, it’s difficult to see much reliable help on the way in the immediate future. The Pirates starters shouldn’t be looking over their shoulder. The backup plans don’t seem to be slam dunks to fix this problem.
Perhaps the starters not named Burnett can just look in the mirror for the help they need.
The guy in the mirror has been pretty good at times over his career. Although Wandy Rodriguez has given up ten earned runs in his last two starts lasting only 9.2 innings, Rodriguez can certainly pitch better than his last two outings. Jeff Locke has given up three earned runs in his last two starts lasting 12.1 innings. Locke has shown he can pitch in the big leagues too.
The big question mark is the guy that pitches against the Mariners in a few hours. Although James McDonald has gone ten innings in his last two starts and given up ten earned runs with eight walks, JMac has shown the ability to be pretty good.
All he needs to do now is make it happen.
Along with everyone else not named Burnett.