Pittsburgh Pirates road trip report card for June 2-7
The biggest storyline going with the Pittsburgh Pirates right now is what to do with the closer’s role. Should Watson and Rivero switch spots? Is Watson bound to come around? Should Watson be taken out of high leverage situations altogether? Let’s take a look at the Pirates most recent example of a late-inning relief man losing his edge.
After playing a vital role in the magical year of 2013, Jason Grilli hit a wall the next season. In late June, the Pirates shipped Grilli to the Anaheim Angels in exchange for the equally poor Ernesto Frieri. Here are Grilli’s numbers at the time of his departure, compared to Watson’s at the present time.
Grilli : 20.1 Innings, 4.87 ERA, 75 ERA+, 5.39 FIP,
Watson: 26.1 Innings, 4.44 ERA, 96 ERA+, 5.76 FIP
It is true that these situations are different, as Grilli was 37 at the time of his exit, while Watson is 32. But to me, it would be the best thing for Watson and the Pirates if the two sides parted ways.
Yes, Watson is relatively young at 32. But if you look at his numbers over the past three years, particularly his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), which measures a pitcher’s ERA without defensive influence, you’d notice a disturbing trend.
2014: 2.69 FIP
2015: 2.84 FIP
2016: 4.37 FIP
2017: 5.76 FIP
These stats suggest that Watson isn’t just gradually regressing, but straight up plummetting.
When Jason Grilli was shipped out of town three summers ago, fans felt for him but were not against the move. Given that Watson is a free agent after this season, it is clear that he will spend, at most, six more months as a Pittsburgh Pirate. It’s likely that he is gone by the July 31 trade deadline.
Assuming Watson does not return to pre-2016 form, the asking price won’t be too high. At the same time, it wasn’t ideal for Grilli either, and the Pirates got rid of him in a throwaway type deal without significantly harming their bullpen.
Tony Watson is a good guy and an active member of the community, and he deserves great respect for what he has done throughout his time as a Bucco. But the guy looks spent, and stats suggest that it might not be temporary.