Felipe Rivero’s Change Up Is Really Good

Aug 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Rivero (73) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Rivero (73) pitches against the San Diego Padres during the seventh inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

On July 30th the Pittsburgh Pirates acquire left-handed relief pitcher Felipe Rivero from the Washington Nationals. Felipe Rivero has all the tools needed to be a big part of the Pirate bullpen for a long time.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded closer Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals on July 30th, in typical Pirate fan fashion, the fan base was up in arms. Rather than do some research on the players acquired for Melancon, left-handed pitchers Felipe Rivero and Nathan Hearns, fans just complained as always. Then again, there are some portions of the Pirate fan base that hate the front office so that I am convinced if Neal Huntington traded Jacob Stallings for Clayton Kershaw they’d complain.

Anyway, I liked this trade from the start. Why? Well, that’s simple, because Felipe Rivero is really good. The 25 year old left-handed reliever throws in the upper 90s and has a great change up. Throw in the fact he is controlled through 2021, and acquiring Rivero alone made this a great trade.

Combined between the Nationals and Pirates Felipe Rivero has pitched 54 1/3 innings this season. In those 54 1/3 innings pitched he is averaging 10.10 K/9, 3.15 BB/9, and just 0.66 HR/9. Furthermore, he has a strong WHIP of 1.21.

Felipe Rivero’s ERA this season is 4.14, but that is very misleading. His 3.17 FIP indicates that he has pitched much better than his ERA this season. And his 3.55 xFIP indicates that there is improvement on the horizon.

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The biggest issue with Rivero’s ERA all stems from one game. On June 18th, Felipe Rivero got hammered in an outing against the San Diego Padres. In that outing Rivero faced six batters allowing three hits, two walks, he hit a batter, and he was charged with six earned runs.

Minus that one awful outing against the Padres Rivero’s ERA on the season is just 3.15. And since that outing, Felipe Rivero has been nearly untouchable. In 25 innings pitched since this outing, Rivero’s WHIP is just 1.20.

Furthermore, in those 25 innings Rivero is averaging 8.63 K/9, 3.00 BB/9, and he has not allowed a home run. And since joining the Pirates, Felipe Rivero has been even better. In 4 2/3 innings pitched with the Bucs Rivero has allowed four hits, he has struck out eight batters, he has not allowed a run, and he has a 2.27 FIP and a 2.98 xFIP.

Two of the best change ups in all of Major League Baseball, among relievers at least, reside in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization. These change ups belong to Felipe Rivero and A.J. Schugel. Unfortunately, Schugel is stuck in Triple-A instead of Jared Hughes. But that’s a discussion for another time.

As I said above, Felipe Rivero’s change up is absolutely nasty. On the season opposing batters are hitting just .146 off of his change up, to go along with a .178 wOBA and a wRC+ of 17. Opposing batters have also swung and missed at 55.8 percent of the change ups he has thrown this season. In his Major League career, which includes 48 1/3 innings pitched last season, this number is even better spiking to 58.7 percent.

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Felipe Rivero also gets a lot of chases on his change up. This season opposing batters have swung at 50.4 percent of Rivero’s change ups outside the strike zone. For his career, this number increases to 52.6 percent.

Thanks in large part to this great change up, right-handed hitters are terrible against Felipe Rivero. This season right-handed hitters are slashing just .191/.264/.305/.569 off of Rivero, to go along with a wOBA of just .248. In his career right-handed hitters are slashing just .194/.260/.361/.621 against Rivero, with a wOBA of .250. Felipe Rivero is also very good against left-handed hitters holding them to a .250/.320/.329/.649 slash line and a .290 wOBA in his career.

Felipe Rivero, thanks in large part to his nearly un-hittable change up, is a really good reliever. And, luckily for the Pittsburgh Pirates, he will be a really good relief pitcher for them for the next five seasons. Felipe Rivero is almost assuredly the closer in waiting for when Tony Watson departs after the 2017 season, so the future of the 9th inning is in good hands in Pittsburgh.