Top 10 Pittsburgh Pirates of the first half

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Jul 1, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Jared Hughes (48) pitches in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

#9 – Jared Hughes

Jared Hughes is flying under the radar this year, and has for most of the season, despite coming off a 2014 campaign in which he had a 1.96 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He’s on pace this year to come close, if not surpass his innings total from last season and is becoming the seventh inning arm that the Pirates have been looking for to compliment Tony Watson and Mark Melancon at the back-end of the bullpen.

So far in 2014, Hughes has compiled a 2.29 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, and has already matched his wins above replacement total from last season at 0.9. He’s on pace to have the best season of his career in terms of WAR. What’s fueling his success? Part of it is because he’s throwing the fewest pitches per plate appearance (3.36) and the fewest pitches per inning (13.6) of his career. His K/BB ratio of 3.38/1 is almost a full point higher than in any previous season of his career. He’s getting outs faster and not walking batters, which is an easy recipe for success.

There’s no reason to think that Hughes won’t at least keep his ERA under 3.00 for the rest of the season. After all, he has a career 2.83 ERA over the course of five seasons with the Pirates, and a solid career WHIP of 1.21. His success has been paramount to the success of the bullpen in 2015.

Next: The Setup Man