Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look at the Pitching Rankings

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Analysis: The Pittsburgh Pirates offense has been the main issue in the early goings.  A few days ago we took a look at the offensive rankings compared to the league.  How does the pitching staff rank thus far?

Entering the season, the biggest question mark and concern surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates was if their starting rotation was good enough.  Many felt the answer to this question was no, it was not good enough.  When rumors surfaced about a potential Jose Quintana deal, fans were clamoring for it to happen.  Adding Quintana to the current staff would have brought in not only more stability to the rotation, but a top of the rotation arm that would allow the other starters to bump down a spot in the rotation.  When Spring Training arrived, it seemed that there was not going to be a deal for the southpaw.  Fans were worried about not only the rotation as a whole, but specifically the backend.  The fifth spot was up for grabs between an unsuccessful Drew Hutchison, an underwhelming Steven Brault, and a top prospect with a lot of question marks in Tyler Glasnow.

The Pittsburgh Pirates decided to go with the third option, the one with the most upside.  Tyler Glasnow essentially ended Spring Training on a high note while Hutchison struggled and Brault, who was good, but not spectacular.  Still, fans were concerned that between Glasnow and Kuhl that Pirates were not set to be true playoff contenders from a pitching standpoint. The team heavily invested in their bullpen over the last year or so.  They inked Juan Nicasio to a deal last off-season and he has been solid since joining the ‘pen. Also, they handed out a 2 year and $11 million contract to power arm Daniel Hudson.  Furthermore, they specifically targeted a high upside in trade talks for Mark Melancon last year, and they got one they like in Felipe Rivero.

Even with a bullpen that seems improved from last season, many felt that pitchers in the rotation would hold the team back.  So how has the pitching been so far this season?

Team Stats

Earned Run Average

The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff currently ranks 21st in baseball in terms of ERA. Between the starting rotation and bullpen, they have combined 4.34 ERA.  This ERA rank puts them just ahead of the Boston Red Sox who are at 22nd.  The same Boston Red Sox who made the big splash by acquiring Chris Sale this past off-season.  As a whole, the Chicago Cubs have the number one ERA against in the league at 2.47.

Strikeouts per Nine Innings Pitched

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a notorious pitch to contact team.  Due to this, they currently rank 29th in the league in strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  Collectively, the staff has 6.60 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  They are well ahead of the Atlanta Braves who are at 6.27 and last in the league.  Just ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates are the Tampa Bay Rays at 6.61.  The number one team in baseball is the New York Yankees, who are averaging 10.37 k/9ip.  As mentioned earlier, this is expected, as the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching philosophy is to keep their pitch count low by inducing weak groundball contact.  Still, with a number of power arms that team has, one would expect this number to rise.

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Walks per Nine Innings Pitched

The Pittsburgh Pirates philosophy of pitching to contact helps them in the free pass department.  The team does not walk a whole lot of hitters, mainly because of this philosophy.  As of now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied for 11th in the league in walks per nine innings pitched.  They are averaging 3.15 walks in a nine-inning game.  The Mets are the team the Pirates are tied with.  One thing to keep in mind is that this number is somewhat inflated because of Tyler Glasnow’s debut where he walked five hitters in just 1.2 innings.  Also, Antonio Bastardo has not helped much, walking 5 hitters in his 4 innings of work.  Unfortunately, you cannot take those two out of the equation.  It is what it is, but still, the team has done a good job of limiting free passes.

Hits per Nine Innings Pitched

Of course, limiting free passes is great and all, but the Pittsburgh Pirates still give up their fair share of base runners.  So far in the early going, the Pittsburgh Pirates are ranking 28th in hits per nine innings. They are giving up an average of 9.76 hits in games.  The two teams below them are the St. Louis Cardinals (9.83) and the Seattle Mariners (9.88).  The team who has limited teams to the least amount of hits thus far is the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins are only giving up 6.41 hits per game.  So there is a significant difference between where the Pirates are and where the Pirates want to be.

Next: A Look at the Offense

Final Thoughts on the Pitching So Far

The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching this season has been better than their hitting.  However, the pitching has ways to go for this team to get back to post-season baseball.  Although pitching to contact has given the Pirates success over the last few years, this year it has not.  They have had a lot of bad luck in terms of their BABIP, check back tomorrow for more on this from co-editor Marty Leap.  Essentially, the Pirates have been struck by a lot of bad luck, teams are hitting the ball where they are not, something that should eventually even itself out.  If it does, this will greatly help the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff limit their hits per nine innings, thus giving them all-around better pitching stats.

*All Team Stats are courtesy of teamrankings.com

*Also, all stats are based on numbers up to the 15th of April.