Pittsburgh Pirates: Felipe Rivero Rated a Top 10 Reliever

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 20: Felipe Rivero
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 20: Felipe Rivero /

Last year, the biggest breakout player on the Pittsburgh Pirates was Felipe Rivero.  He had such a breakout season that he is now being called a top 10 reliever in the game.

MLB Network radio puts out their top 10 players at each position before every season.  The Pittsburgh Pirates always seem to have good depth in their bullpen, and they continue to do so this season.  In years past they had Mark Melancon appear on the top 10 reliever list. Of course, Melancon has since moved on to be one of the highest paid relievers in baseball.  However, this year they have a pitcher on the list who they actually acquired for Melancon.

Felipe Rivero put himself on the map last year as one of the most dominant left-handed relievers in baseball.  He broke out in his first season with the Pittsburgh Pirates in a big way after unseating Tony Watson as the team’s closer. This earned him the number seven rank on MLB Network Radio’s top 10 reliever list.  This is great to see, especially after all the negativity there was when the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired the flamethrower.  They acquired him along with top left-handed pitching prospect Taylor Hearn.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates first acquired Rivero, many were underwhelmed, especially after the return the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller.  Rivero came over from the Nationals with a 4.53 ERA in 47 games.  Many local sports journalist based their assessment on just his poor ERA and did not realize that he had struck out over a batter per inning, and opponents were only hitting .143 off of him.  Simply put, he had some bad luck in his short stint with the Nationals in 2016.

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Of course, last season he more than proved that he should be considered one of the top relievers in the game.  He pitched in 73 games and accumulated 75.1 innings pitched, posting a very impressive ERA of 1.67 along with an opponent batting average of .170.  Also, he struck out 88 batters in his 75.1 innings for a k/9 of 10.5.  Not only did he strike a lot of batters out, but he also produced a strong 52 percent groundball rate.  He did this all the while only walking 2.3 batters per nine innings pitched.  This earned Rivero a four year contract worth $22 million with two club options this offseason.

If Rivero puts up numbers in 2018 like he did last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates will not have to worry about many games if it comes down to the ninth inning.