Neal Huntington to blame for the Starting Pitching?
The Walker Trade
First, Huntington traded Neil Walker for left-handed starter Jon Niese from the New York Mets. AT the time of the move many fans were upset. Walker, was viewed as the home town kid, and an above average offensive player. They traded him for a veteran, who struggled in 2015, and was knocked out of the Met’s rotation toward the end of the season. However, on the flip side other fans understood the move. The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired a stable, left-handed, veteran pitcher. Although he struggled, people saw that he has had a strong career as a middle of the rotation arm, and thought he could get back on track with Ray Searage‘s coaching. Unfortunately, this move did not work. After pitching to a 4.91 earned run average the Pittsburgh Pirates cut ties with him and traded him back to the New York Mets.
Two Buy Lows
The next two moves were typical buy-low moves that we see every off-season. Neal Huntington signed Ryan Vogelsong and Juan Nicasio for a combined 5 million dollars. Different pitchers and spots in their career, but both were brought in with the intent to throw productive innings until the rookies were ready. However, this did not work either. Vogelsong took a pitch to the face and missed half the season. Nicasio started off well, but by May it was evident that he would be better suited for the bullpen.
JA Happ miscue
Finally, the biggest move that people were disappointed in was not resigning J.A. Happ. Happ was the best Pittsburgh Pirates starter for the last part of the 2015 season. Many new he would get a solid contract. He was given a deal of three years and 36 million to pitch for the Blue Jays. Fans felt that the Pittsburgh Pirates could have afforded this contract and missed out on a quality pitcher. Happ has proved to not be a one hit wonder, earning 19 wins and 4 losses with a 3.27 earned run average.
With that not all the blame can go on Neal Huntington. The true issue with the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitching has nothing to do with hit or misses from the off-season. Neal Huntington knew that he had high ceiling starting pitching coming in late May or early June. He knew that if the Pittsburgh Pirates could stay afloat until specifically Jameson Taillon arrived, that the team would be in it. The real issues came with exterior factors that were out of Huntington’s control. First, all signed suggested that Jon Niese would be a solid mid-high three earned run average, and part of the rotation for the full-season. Furthermore, just a reliable number three or four starter, as his career history suggests.
The biggest blow?
The biggest blow was the regression of Francisco Liriano. Liriano has been one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball over the last three years. He pitched to a 3.02, 3.38, and another 3.38 earned run average over those last three years. Entering 2016 at the age of 32, many thought he would regress some, but still be a very good number two in the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation. Neal Huntington did not expect, or should be blamed for Francisco Liriano having the worst year of his career since 2012. Pitching to a 5.46 earned run average, the Pittsburgh Pirates cut ties with him at the trade deadline.