Pittsburgh Pirates v. Chicago Cubs – The Bullpen

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Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Middle Relief:

Pirates: Arquimedes Caminero, Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo

Cubs: Travis Wood, Clayton Richard, Justin Grimm

Arquimedes Caminero has had an up and down season for the Pirates. At times he’s looked absolutely dominant, but he hit a stretch midseason where he was completely ineffective and he appeared to be a DFA candidate, but the Pirates kept their faith in “The Snowman,” and it paid off as down the stretch he’s been super effective. Overall he’s been solid with a 3.62ERA/3.80FIP and 8.8 strikeouts per nine. His fastball often hits 100MPH, but can be flat at times and hittable, however when he’s on, he’s a very effective weapon.

Jared Hughes has been Mr. Fix It for Clint Hurdle as he’s often been used to get hitters out with men on base and he’s been outstanding in that role as he’s stranded 81 percent of runners he’s inherited. His overall numbers are great too pitching to a 2.28ERA/3.81FIP and he has a ground ball rate of 63.7 percent. His sinker is his how he attacks hitters with men on base and he’s been great at it. There’s almost no other pitcher I’d rather see in the game with men on base than Jared Hughes. If Cole leaves mid-inning, Hughes could be the difference between winning and losing and that’s fine with me.

Antonio Bastardo was a whipping boy for much of the season and was a living embodiment of numbers vs. narrative. If you had asked the average fan in August if Bastardo was good, they’d likely tell you no, despite the fact that after July he’s been one of the best left handed relievers in baseball. Since the All Star Break he’s pitched to a 2.32ERA and his overall numbers have been very good 2.98ERA/3.11FIP while striking out 11 per nine innings. He’s also been fantastic at getting left-handed hitters out. Holding them a .138AVG/.233OBP/.215SLG/.448OPS split. If there’s a situation late in game and you need to get a tough left handed hitter out, Bastardo could be Hurdle’s man.

Pirates Middle Relief Totals: 2.96ERA/3.57FIP

Travis Wood started the season as the Cubs fifth starter, but throughout the course of the season he lost his job and was moved to the bullpen. He’s had a very up and down season, but since mid July his ERA has gone down each month and he was very good in September, pitching to a 0.65ERA, which brought his season numbers down to a more than respectable 3.84ERA/3.40FIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine. He’s been a much better pitcher out of the bullpen down the stretch for the Cubs and has even saved four games in four attempts. The move to the bullpen has done wonders for Wood as he was very poor as a starter in 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

Clayton Richard is a name that should be familiar to many Pirates’ fans as he was in the organization during Spring Training and the beginning of 2015. He spent all of this time at AAA-Indianapolis and used his opt out to sign with the Cubs on July 3rd, 2015. As a starter he was solid, but unspectacular. When he was moved to the bullpen he became much more effective and has done mostly solid work for the Cubs. He was okay in September pitching a 3.97ERA, which followed a fantastic July. His overall work is good with a 3.83ERA/3.58FIP and a much improved walk rate of 1.5 per nine innings. Richard hasn’t been amazing for the Cubs but he’s been a very steady contributor, which is all you can ask from a spot starter/middle reliever.

Justin Grimm has been fantastic ever since he joined the Cubs in 2013 and this season was no different. He was a mediocre starter for the Texas Rangers, but upon coming to Chicago he was converted to a reliever and has been super effective. This season has very much been his best of his career as he has a 1.99ERA/3.11FIP and has struck out 12.1 per nine innings. No matter how you slice it, Grimm is a very good reliever. He’s been a middle inning guy and a late inning guy for the Cubs this year. He’s basically used whenever Joe Maddon needs a big out and he’s done it more often than not.

Cubs Middle Relief Totals: 3.22ERA/3.36FIP

Verdict: I don’t think either team has a clear advantage here, fairly similar ERA and FIP. Pirates have the slightly better ERA, but the Cubs have a better FIP. So to me this is a push. If the game does come down to middle relief, it would likely be a situational advantage depending on which part of the lineup they’re facing.

Next: Late Inning/Setup