The Tremendous Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen
By Tom Smith
The Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen is called the Shark Tank and it’s a name the pen has earned with their work thus far in 2013. The Bucs pitching staff ranks at or near the top of Major League Baseball. After last night’s victory, Jeff Locke extended his scoreless inning streak to over 19 innings, and earlier this year the southpaw had a consecutive scoreless frames streak of 15 innings.
But it was the work done by the Shark Tank that allowed the Bucs to grab another 1-0 victory last night. The bullpen is the big reason why the Pirates staff is riding high – just ask Jim Leyland.
The Bucs just took three of four games against his Detroit Tigers, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Pirates bullpen. It’s not a surprise when you look at the numbers. Sure, there are a lot of innings piled up, but the earned runs are down and the strikeouts are off the chart.
The 175 strikeouts lead the National League. The bullpen has pitched 185.1 innings, which is the most in the NL. The wear and tear on the bullpen is a growing concern. It’s difficult to think that Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and the rest of the Shark Tank can continue this heavy workload.
The bad guys are batting just .141 off Grilli, and he is perfect in 22 save opportunities.
Melancon has been scored upon just twice in his last 21 innings.
Justin Wilson in near the top of NL relievers innings pitched, and he is in the top five in strikeouts. #BigWillyStyle has been scored on once in 18.1 innings of work at PNC Park.
Vin Mazzaro had another outing in which he didn’t allow a run. The right-hander now has ten straight scoreless appearances.
Tony Watson has bounced back from some difficult appearances earlier in the season. The southpaw now has three consecutive scoreless appearances.
Bryan Morris earned his stripes with some excellent scoreless work against Detroit.
The bottom line for us is a tough one. The Pirates have had nine of their last twelve games decided by one run. The Bucs are 7-2 in those games. Eventually, this is going to disappear. But remember – there are some players in Triple-A Indy that seem ready to jump at the opportunity, should there be one in the short term.
In the meantime, let’s enjoy the ride while we can. Shutting down the fast-lane Tigers is a nice accomplishment.
Oh, and fourteen games over .500 before June is also pretty damned special, wouldn’t you agree?