The offseason is unfortunately here and so we are simultaneously tasked with reflecting on the 2015 season and looking forward to next spring. As part of Rumbunter’s off-season coverage, we will be grading out virtually every member of the Pittsburgh Pirates who spent substantial time on the team’s 25-man roster over the past season. We will look at their seasons as a whole, show you their relevant stats, and assign a final grade to each player.
The Pittsburgh Pirates finished 2015 with the best bullpen in Major League Baseball and the league leader in saves, but maybe the MVP of the bullpen was the ever reliable, Tony Watson. For almost the entire season, whenever called upon, Tony took the ball and did his job and he did it better than almost anyone in baseball. Watson was the bridge to Mark Melancon and there wasn’t a better setup man in the league than him. He finished third in the league in appearances with 77 and was fifth in Win Probably Added with 4.4.
Appearances and advance metrics aside, Watson’s standard numbers are absolutely ridiculous. It’s no wonder Clint Hurdle called up on him so much, because more often than not, Watson simply came into the game and easily got three outs. There’s nothing better than having a formula to win ball games and the Pirates have that with Watson and Melancon. Have a lead going into eighth inning and you can almost assure victory for the Pirates. There is no better feeling for a manager or for the fans. A great lineup builds the lead, but a shutdown back end of the bullpen closes the game out and sometimes doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves.
Tony Watson is obviously a left handed pitcher, but he is far from a specialist. It doesn’t matter if he’s facing left handed or right handed hitters, Tony Watson gets basically the same results. Batters don’t bunch hits off of Watson and they get even less extra base hits. He gave up only three home runs and seven doubles all season. It doesn’t get more dominant than that from a relief pitcher.
Watson wasn’t named an All Star this season, but it could be argued he was even better this season than he was in 2014, but he responded to not being named an All Star by being equally as dominant in the second half of the season. Some relief pitchers taper off and have weaker second halves, Watson just continued to make the eighth inning as automatic as possible. If you enjoyed drama, Watson wasn’t the pitcher for you. He basically just came into the game and in the time it took to get some nachos, the inning was over and the Pirates were hitting again.
Mark Melancon may get a bulk of the credit because he gets the save statistic, but it no one was better than Tony Watson in 2015. I don’t think even the most cynical and angry Pirates’ fans could find a problem with how Watson performed. He was an absolute joy to watch and any time he came into the game, I think most fans felt a calm wash over them. You just knew that Watson was going to take the ball and do his job. He was the most reliable member of the bullpen and maybe the most reliable member of the entire team. No one was more consistent in 2015 than Watson and whether he threw a nine pitch inning or gave up a rare run, he looked exactly the same as showing emotion is overrated.
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