Drew Hutchison Is Locking Down The Final Spot In The Pirate Rotation

Sep 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (34) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (34) delivers a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Drew Hutchison is solidifying himself as the Pirates’ fifth starting pitcher

At the start of Spring Training the biggest battle in Pirate camp was for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation. When Grapefruit League play started this battle was between Drew Hutchison, Steven Brault, and Tyler Glasnow. However, Hutchison entered camp with a leg up.

Tyler Glasnow has proven this spring that he needs more time at Triple-A. And while Steven Brault has pitched very well, so has Hutchison. Due to Drew Hutchison already having a leg up and his performance this spring, Hutchison is locking up the fifth stater’s spot.

The reason Drew Hutchison started the spring with a leg up can be summed up in one word: experience. While both Tyler Glasnow and Steven Brault made their Major League debuts last season, Hutchison already has 417 2/3 career Major League innings under his belt.

Through three outings this spring Hutchison has been very good. In nine innings pitched he has allowed six hits, he has walked three batters, he has allowed a pair of solo home runs, and he has struck out nine batters. Opposing hitters own just a .194 batting average off Hutchison in these nine innings of work.

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Drew Hutchison has also done a very good job of generating ground balls this spring (1.18 GO/AO). This is a skill that the Pirate value greatly, and rightfully so. The Major League average ISO (.020) and wOBA (.220) on ground balls are both much lower than the league average ISO (.378) and wOBA (.355) on fly balls.

Pitching coach Ray Searage has made a few minor tweaks to Hutchison’s delivery this spring. So far, these tweaks appear to be working. The goal of these tweaks were to help Hutchison keep the ball down in the zone which would generate more ground balls and less fly balls. Drew Hutchison has done just that so far this spring.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates should be optimistic about Drew Hutchison due to his slider. Last season, his slider had the second best spin rate in the Major Leagues behind just Max Scherzer. This led to opposing batters hitting just .229 off of his slider. During his Major League career, he has held opposing batters to a wRC+ of just 79 off of his slider.

In 2016 Hutch also featured a plus change up. He held opposing hitters to a .182 average and a wRC+ of 4 against his change up. These two pitches could give Hutchison the duo needed to retire both left and right-handed hitters.

Even though many Pirate fans will ignore it, Drew Hutchison has the career results of a good back of the rotation starting pitcher. Hutchison owns a 4.25 FIP, 4.04 xFIP, and a 4.2 WAR in his career. He has also averaged 8.27 K/9 and just 2.82 BB/9. His big problem has always been that he has always allowed too many home runs (1.27 HR/9) in his career. But moving out of the American League East and to the National League should help to fix that issue.

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There might not be a pitching prospect in all of baseball with a higher ceiling than Tyler Glasnow, but he has proven he is not yet Major League ready. Steven Brault pitches from the left-side, but only throws two Major League quality pitches. These reasons combined with the spring that Drew Hutchison has had has led to Hutchison being in the processing of locking down the final spot in the Pirate rotation.