The Back Of The Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen Is Really Good
The back of the bullpen has become a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates
A strong bullpen can help cover up a lot of warts for a Major League Baseball team. During the 2018 season the Pittsburgh Pirates have had an inconsistent bullpen that has caused many fans to find themselves clenching their teeth and wanting to pull their hair out.
Despite the inconsistency of the bullpen, the back end of the bullpen has emerged in a big way. Quietly, the back end of the Pirate bullpen has become really good. And best of all, the three pitchers driving this are under team control for the foreseeable future.
The back of the Pirate bullpen is anchored by Felipe Vazquez. Despite three poor outings that have inflated his ERA, the National League All-Star is having the best season of his career.
Joining Vazquez in the back of the Pirate bullpen are Edgar Santana and Kyle Crick. Each of these pitchers are in the first full season of their Major League career, and each of them are turning into shutdown relievers.
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Despite an increased walk rate from Vazquez this season, he has a new career high strikeout rate and is allowing hard contact a career low 22.8% of the time. Combine this with having allowed just one home run and Vazquez’s 1.98 FIP is the best of his career.
Crick has battled wildness this season, but makes up for it with a high strikeout rate and a 31.7% chase rate. Meanwhile, Santana has pinpoint control to go with a wicked slider that helps him rack up Ks.
A common denominator between the three is limiting the long ball. In a combined 117 1/3 innings pitched this season Vazquez, Crick, and Santana have combined to allow just seven home runs. And – big news flash here – relievers keeping the ball in the yard, racking up strikeouts, and limiting hard contact is a recipe for success.
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After signing a contract extension in the offseason, Vazquez is under team control through 2023. Crick and Santana are both pre-arbitration eligible, making both of them under team control through 2023 as well. With these three pitchers emerging as shutdown late inning arms while being under team control for five more seasons after 2018, they should be key contributors to a lot of Pirate victories in the coming seasons.