The Value Of Drew Hutchison

Sep 30, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Drew Hutchison (34) pitches during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 30, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Drew Hutchison (34) pitches during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports /

On August 1st the Pirates acquired Drew Hutchison from the Toronto Blue Jays. And, contrary to what many Pirate fans believe, he brings value to the Bucs.

Let me start out by saying this: Drew Hutchison will make the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Opening Day roster in 2017. This has nothing to do with what the Pirates gave up to acquire him either. However, it is due to the fact he is out of options.

Neal Huntington and the Pirates are not going to designate Hutchison for assignment. Especially since he can bring this team value in 2017. And the value he can bring is a type of value that can be difficult to come by.

The role I believe Drew Hutchison could play in 2017 is very similar to the role Jeanmar Gomez played for the Pirates in 2013. I believe Hutchison could be a spot starter, a good long relief man, and possibly even a short reliever. And this is a role that can bring a team great value.

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In 2013 Jeanmar Gomez pitched in 34 games, with eight of them being starts, for the Pirates. He pitched 80 2/3 innings posting a 3.35 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and a 3.95 xFIP. Quietly, Gomez played a large role in the 2013 Pirates winning 95 games and reaching the postseason.

On more than one occasion Jeanmar Gomez helped bail the Pirates out that season. In late May and early June when the rotation was in flux, Gomez stepped in and gave the Pirates some much needed quality starts. He also played multiple roles in what was a historically good bullpen. Having a pitcher that can do that is very valuable and I believe that Drew Hutchison can be that pitcher for the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates.

During his Major League career Hutchison has both started and pitched out of the bullpen. This was the case in 2016 as well. So this is a role that he has filled before.

The only issue is that Hutchison has yet to find much success in this role. In fact, minus 3.85 FIP and 3.2 WAR campaign in 2014, he has never found consistent success in the Major Leagues. But I believe this can change.

Drew Hutchison has pitched 417 2/3 Major League innings, and the results have been a mixed bag. While his 4.93 ERA, 1.27 HR/9, and 38.6 percent ground ball rate all need to improve. His 4.25 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, 8.27 K/9, and 2.82 BB/9 are all encouraging signs.

Another encouraging sign is Hutchison’s contact rates. For his career he has allowed a 31.3 percent hard contact rate and a 21.8 percent line drive rate. Both of these rates are strong numbers. So it is not like Hutchison is a pitcher that gives up one hard hit ball after another.

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The biggest problem for Hutchison throughout his career has been allowing too many home runs. However, ballpark factor must be looked at here. With the Blue Jays he was pitching his home games at the launching pad that is the Rogers Center. His division also included hitter’s paradises such as Yankees Stadium, Camden Yards, and Fenway Park.

Now that Drew Hutchison is a Pirate, he, of course, pitches his home games at pitcher friendly PNC Park. Additionally, pitching in the National League is always easier than pitching in the American League due to a lack of a designated hitter. Both of these factors are also reasons to believe Hutchison can find success in 2017, and therefore bring value to the Pirates.

Finally, there is the wicked slider that Hutchison possesses. In 2016 his slider’s spin rate was 2,254 RPM. This was the second best in all of baseball behind Max Scherzer. When pitching in the role I am looking for Hutch to do in 2017, it takes just one above average pitch to succeed. Hutch has that pitch in his slider.

Hutchison also featured a strong change up in 2016. Opposing batters hit just .182 off of his change up last season, to go along with a .160 wOBA and a wRC+ of 4. Hutch’s slider and change up combination is good enough for him to bring the Pirates plenty of value in the right role in 2017.

I believe Drew Hutchison can bring the Pittsburgh Pirates value in 2017. This value can be as a jack-of-all trades man on the Pirate pitching staff. Hutchison has the ability to pitch well as a spot starter, a long reliever, and as a short reliever. Hopefully, he pans out for the Bucs in 2017. I am confident that he will.