What was once considered to have holes is now becoming a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The bullpen was seen to have weaknesses, and Neal Huntington addressed them, primarily in the middle relief area, by adding Joakim Soria and Joe Blanton, shoring up both the long relief area and the seventh inning role for the Pirates. But it hasn’t just been these two additions that has turned the Pirate bullpen into a force to be reckoned with. The improvements seen from the already existing pieces of the pen have added fuel to the fire that is one heck of a bullpen.
A recent tweet sent out by @ESPNStatsInfo inspired this piece. It reads as follows:
And go ahead and give a quick read to the follow-up piece on ESPN about just how formidable the Pirate bullpen has been as of late. You can read it here. In sum, heading into Sunday’s action, the Pirate bullpen had won it’s last 15 decisions. That’s the longest such streak since the 1909 World Series Champion Pirates’ bullpen when they won 22 straight decisions. And the current Pirate pen got another winning decision on Sunday, which was given to Arquimedes Caminero. That’s 16 straight. The ESPN article also notes that, heading into Sunday, the Pirates went from having a 4.54 ERA in July to a 1.50 ERA in August. That’s over a three point drop, and that August ERA got even lower after Sunday’s game. And this has occurred because just about every piece of the bullpen improved from July to August except for, most notably and ironically, Mark Melancon, who was incredibly dominant for so long this season before hitting a bit of a rough patch as of late.
For starters, the two pieces that Huntington added in Soria and Blanton have both been tremendous. Soria has become a seventh/eighth inning guy and the occasional closer should Melancon need a game off, and he’s been essentially what the Pirates’ expected from him. He had a 2.84 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP with Detroit before being acquired by Pittsburgh, and he has since had a 2.85 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP. That WHIP is suspect, but the results have been the same. In July, Soria had a 3.48 ERA, which had dropped to a 3.38 ERA in August (before Sunday’s action). Blanton, on the other hand, has been more than the Pirates could have hoped for. With the Royals this year, Blanton had a 3.89 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. For some reason, despite these decent statistics, the Pirates were able to snag Blanton solely for cash considerations. With the Pirates, Blanton has an ERA of 1.00 and a WHIP of 0.89, and has already been worth more wins above replacement than he had been worth with Kansas City. From July to August, Blanton’s ERA has dropped from 5.64 to 1.00. This has turned into quite a pickup for Huntington.
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Tony Watson, after having a rough patch in the middle of the season, has returned to dominance as of late. His July ERA of 5.40 is a far cry from his perfect ERA of 0.00 in August. Maybe the addition of Soria has pushed Watson to perform better. Oh, and let’s not forget the most surprising performances so far, those of Antonio Bastardo and Caminero. They held ERAs of 6.23 and 7.59, respectively, in July, yet neither has allowed an earned run in August. Only Jared Hughes and Mark Melancon have seen their ERAs climb from July to August. And let’s be honest: Melancon was bound to come down from the the incredible run he had had during the middle of the season.
So let’s quickly recap the incredible performances the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen has received in August (the following stats are from before Sunday’s game).
Player > July ERA > August ERA
Joakim Soria > 3.48 > 3.38
Joe Blanton > 5.54 > 1.00
Antonio Bastardo > 6.23 > 0.00
Arquimedes Caminero > 7.59 > 0.00
Tony Watson > 5.40 > 0.00
Jared Hughes > 0.73 > 3.00
Mark Melancon > 0.00 > 4.26
Those, my friends, are some incredible numbers. We have a good idea that both Melancon and Hughes should rebound, based on their career numbers, but if guys like Bastardo and Caminero have really turned a corner this season, this Pirate bullpen will have truly become a force to be reckoned with.