Does Wade LeBlanc Have A Future In The Pirate Bullpen?

Aug 9, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc (35) throws against the Detroit Tigers during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 9, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc (35) throws against the Detroit Tigers during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since being claimed off waivers Wade LeBlanc has pitched in three games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Does he have a future in the Pirates’ bullpen?

On September 13th the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired Wade LeBlanc from the Seattle Mariners. The Pirates acquired LeBlanc in exchange for cash after the Mariners had designated him for assignment. He was then immediately inserted into the Bucs’ bullpen.

When the Pirates acquired Wade LeBlanc there were not many people, if any, that expected him to make an impact with the team. Honestly, most people were probably wondering “who the hell is Wade LeBlanc?” Well, he is, possibly, the Pirates’ future long reliever.

So far as a Pirate LeBlanc has pitched in three games. In these three games he has allowed four hits, one walk, and has struck out five batters in six innings pitched. In these six innings pitched LeBlanc owns a 53.3 percent ground ball rate, 0.00 ERA, 1.97 FIP, and a 2.81 xFIP.

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Now, obviously, six innings is an extremely small sample size. Too small of a sample size to draw many, if any, evaluations from. However, I am cautiously optimistic about Wade LeBlanc moving forward.

This past offseason Wade LeBlanc signed a Minor League contract with Seattle. Due to this, LeBlanc will be a free agent at the end of the season. However, I believe the Pirates will try to re-sign LeBlanc this offseason.

In his six innings pitched with the Pirates LeBlanc has featured a four pitch mix. These four pitches are his fastball, curveball, cutter, and change up. His best pitch as a Pirate has been his curveball which, according to FanGraphs, has a -1.2 wCU. This is followed by his fastball, cutter, and then change up.

During his Major League career Wade LeBlanc has been used as both a starting pitcher and a relief pitcher. However, he has always done better as a reliever. This is another reason as to why I believe the Pirates might be onto something with LeBlanc in the bullpen.

In 73 2/3 career innings pitched as a relief pitcher LeBlanc has a 3.67 ERA, his ERA jumps to 4.55 in 429 innings pitched as a starting pitcher. Wade LeBlanc has held opposing hitters to a .244 batting average and a .321 wOBA as a relief pitcher, as a starter those numbers jump to .273 and .345. As a reliever LeBlanc is averaging 6.60 K/9, 2.69 BB/9, and he owns a 1.24 WHIP. These numbers are 6.17 K/9, 3.08 BB/9, and a 1.42 WHIP as a starting pitcher.

While Wade LeBlanc’s numbers as a relief pitcher are not great, they are quite a bit better than they are as a starting pitcher. Furthermore, they are also plenty good enough to get by as a long reliever. And ask yourself who would rather be the Pirates’ long reliever in 2017: Wade LeBlanc or Jeff Locke? Personally, I have seen enough of Locke. Sorry, Jeffrey.

In my opinion, Wade LeBlanc could have a future with the Pirates as a long reliever. However, for this to happen the Pirates would need to re-sign him this offseason. Next to Ivan Nova, there may not be a single Pirates’ player that is set to hit free agency I want to see them re-sign more than Wade LeBlanc. This is because I believe he could be a big part of what will already be a super strong bullpen in 2017.

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