The Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten very good work from their bullpen so far this season
Entering the 2017 season, the bullpen appeared primed to be a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Through the season’s first 16 games, it has been just that. While the Pirates are currently just 7-9 on the season, the bullpen is not to blame.
The backend of the Pirate bullpen has been one of the best in the National League so far this season, and this comes as no surprise. What has made the Pirate been so good, however, has been the strong pitching of Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc.
Through 16 games the Pirate bullpen has pitched the fifth least innings in the National League at 50 2/3. This is a testament to the number of innings they have gotten from their starting rotation and is undoubtedly a reason why the bullpen has been strong.
In these 50 2/3 innings pitched the bullpen ranks seventh in the National League in FIP (3.84), seventh in ERA (4.09), seventh in xFIP (3.96), and second in walk rate (2.49 BB/9). These numbers include the train wreck that has been Antonio Bastardo this season.
In 4 innings pitched this season Bastardo owns a 20.25 ERA, 14.90 FIP, and an 8.71 xFIP. He has also allowed three home runs while walking five batters. If you take away Bastardo, who has not pitched in over a week for a reason, the Pirate bullpen ranks in the top five in the NL in ERA, FIP, xFIP, home run rate, and walk rate.
The big four in the Pirate bullpen have been as good as advertised. Juan Nicasio owns a 1.47 FIP, 2.60 xFIP, and is averaging 10.29 K/9 in 7 innings pitched. Daniel Hudson has pitched 8 innings and owns a 1.65 FIP, 3.63 xFIP, and is averaging 9.00 K/9. Felipe Rivero has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball with a 1.70 FIP, 2.81 xFIP, and 9 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched.
While closer Tony Watson has not made things easy, he has gotten the job done. He has converted all 5 save opportunities and has allowed just 1 run, on a solo home run by Kris Bryant that was a product of the wind blowing out at Wrigley Field, in 7 innings pitched. Most encouragingly, his hard contact rates are down from last season.
Arguably the two biggest, and pleasant, surprises for the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates have been Trevor Williams and Wade LeBlanc. In 5 innings pitched Williams has not walked a batter, he has struck out 7, and he owns a 2.30 FIP and a 1.38 xFIP. LeBlanc owns a 3.83 FIP, and has not walked a batter, in 9 2/3 innings pitched.
As a result of their good work, both Williams and LeBlanc have watched their roles in the Pirate bullpen grow and expand.
Pitching is what wins baseball games. So far in 2017, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten strong pitching. Both from the bullpen and the starting rotation. Even without Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte, if the pitching stays strong the team can still win its fair share of baseball games this season.