Entering the 2016 season I expected the Pirate bullpen to be one of the team’s strengths. So far, I have been wrong. While the back-end of the Pirate bullpen of Nefatli Feliz, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon have all pitched very well thus far, the middle relief has been a mess.
Arquimedes Caminero appears to be well on his way to having a sophomore slump season. Caminero has pitched 8 innings so far this season and he is averaging 7.9 BB/9 and 2.3 HR/9. Both of those numbers are awful. Furthermore, his 7.32 FIP and -0.3 WAR also indicate the struggles he has had.
Left-handed reliever Kyle Lobstein has also struggled mightily for the Pirates. Lobstein has pitched 9 innings, and is averaging 5 BB/9 and 2 HR/9. Lobstein also has a very poor FIP of 6.07 and a WAR of -0.2.
The Pirate bullpen will get help and soon, though. Jared Hughes is slated to begin his rehab stint with AAA Indianapolis tonight, and could rejoin the Pirates as soon as this weekend in Arizona. The addition of Hughes to the Pirate bullpen should give their middle relief a much-needed shot in the arm.
The Pirate bullpen has also had two pleasant surprises emerge in right-handers Rob Scahill and AJ Schugel. Scahill and Schugel are two pitchers that are underrated and often times overlooked, but have the capability to help the Pirate bullpen.
Scahill pitched 30 2/3 innings out of the Pirate bullpen last year and posted just a 2.64 ERA, but this was not supported by his 4.50 FIP. He also struggled with control, posting a 4.7 BB/9.
This season, Scahill has been much better though. In four appearances out of the Pirate bullpen he has posted a 10.1 K/9 and his BB/9 has dropped to 3.3. Scahill also has a sparkling 1.94 FIP, despite a BABIP of .429 which is 129 point above the league average. When you combine his FIP and BABIP, there are many reasons to believe that Scahill’s 6.75 ERA will drop significantly with more appearances. Also, Scahill’s 0.1 WAR this season is already an upgrade over his -0.2 WAR from a season ago.
The biggest reason I am very optimistic about Scahill’s ability to help the Pirate bullpen this season is his increase in velocity. Last year Scahill’s average fastball velocity was 93.8mph, while his average slider velocity checked in at 86.7mph. This season Scahill’s fastball velocity has increased 95mph and his slider has spiked to 89.8mph.
Schugel is another pitcher that has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates out of the bullpen. Schugel has pitched 4 1/3 innings averaging 12.5 K/9, he has a FIP of 1.68, and his BABIP of .364 indicates that his already strong ERA of 2.08 is somewhat inflated.
Like Scahill, Schugel has also seen an increase in velocity this season. His fastball has averaged 92.3mph this year, an increase over the 91.8mph it was last year. Also, his change-up has been strong pitch averaging 82.5mph and generating a 44.4% swing and miss rate.
Yes it is a small sample size with Schugel, but I would like to see more of him moving forward. I am in no hurry to jettison Schugel out of the Pirate bullpen. In my opinion, due to a combination of the struggles of others and the success of Schugel he has earned the right to remain in the bullpen moving forward.
There will be two roster moves made geared toward the Pirate bullpen in the next few days. First off, I would expect 1B/3B Jason Rogers to get recalled from AAA today with a reliever being sent down to get the Pirate bench back to five players. Also, someone will have to be sent out to make room on the roster for Hughes when he returns.
In my opinion, the Pirates should option Lobstein to AAA as one of these roster moves and put Arquimedes Caminero on the disabled list as the other. Caminero is out of options and can not be sent to AAA without clearing waivers, which he would not. Caminero’s arm is too talented to designate him for assignment, so it is time for him to make a trip to the disabled list to press reset.
As the Pirates prepare to make some bullpen moves in the coming days, I would keep Rob Scahill and AJ Schugel in the bullpen while optioning Kyle Lobstein to AAA and placing Arquimedes Caminero on the disabled list. Scahill and Schugel both have pitched very well, albeit in a small sample size, this season.