Pittsburgh Pirates News: Team Signs Reliever Brandon Maurer


The Pittsburgh Pirates have signed relief pitcher Brandon Maurer to a minor league deal.  It is their second depth signing of the last couple of weeks.

About a month ago the Pittsburgh Pirates signed reliever Tyler Lyons to a minor league deal to compete for the left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.  If failing to beat out the incumbent Steven Brault for the job, Lyons will serve as depth in Triple-A Indianapolis.  Today, the Pittsburgh Pirates have added another arm that will serve as depth in the minor leagues with the signing of right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer.  Jon Heyman, MLB Network’s insider, reported this news:

Maurer will be entering his age 28 season and coming off two years in which he has produced a 6.95 ERA, posting a 6.52 mark in 2017 and a 7.76 in 2018.  The right-handed reliever brings what the Pirates, and the rest of Major League Baseball, look for in a pitcher: high velocity.  Last season, Maurer averaged 96.5 miles per hour on the fastball and 85.4 miles per hour on his slider, his two most used pitches at 39.9 percent and 42.4 percent respectively.  The reliever also mixes in a changeup, sitting 87.4 miles per hour last year while using the pitch 13.2 percent of the time.

Maurer hasn’t been able to turn that velocity into strikeouts, however, and he illustrates the purpose for strikeout percentage (K%) over strikeouts per nine innings (K/9).  Over the last three seasons, the reliever has a K/9 at at least 8.9, but the strikeout rate hasn’t matched.  Below are Maurer’s K/9 and K% numbers compared to the league averages:

Brandon Maurer Strikeout Rates
Percent above and below league average

In 2016, Maurer struck out batters at about the same rate as the league average compared to the number of batters on a per nine basis.  In the following two years that gap narrowed, and while Maurer’s K/9 was four percent better than the league in 2018, the actual percent in which he struck out was 13 percent worse than average.  This past season, the control was the main problem as he walked 15.6 percent of batters, and when he didn’t strike out or walk the hitter, they went deep 4.4 percent of the time.

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But it’s a minor league deal, making the risk less as the acquisition cost of acquiring a hard throwing pitcher who has struggled mightily over the last two years is minimal.  He’ll compete for a potential spot in spring, but the chance he makes Pittsburgh until September seem low unless he can start to strikeout hitters at a higher rate, walk less batters, or if the attrition rate among pitchers in Pittsburgh is high in 2019.