Clay Holmes Is Becoming A Key Piece Of The Pittsburgh Pirates Bullpen Puzzle

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 14: Clay Holmes #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 14, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 14: Clay Holmes #52 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on June 14, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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After another strong outing on Tuesday night, Clay Holmes is becoming a key piece to the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen puzzle

When the 2019 season began Clay Holmes was a bit of an after thought in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen. After bouncing between being a starter and a reliever in 2018, Holmes was moved to a full time relief role during Spring Training. However, he was never viewed as much of a threat to crack the Opening Day roster.

A big reason for this was the struggles he experienced during his first taste of MLB action in 2018. Holmes posted a 6.84 ERA, 5.40 FIP, 16.3% strikeout rate, and a 17.8% walk rate in 26 1/3 innings pitched last season. These 26 1/3 innings came across 11 games, three of which were starts.

Despite struggling, Holmes always flashed great stuff last season. His biggest control, as it always was in the minor leagues, was his control. As evident by his near 18% walk rate.

Early on in 2019, his control issues continued. Holmes owned a 18.8% walk rate in 15 2/3 innings pitched for Triple-A Indianapolis. After being promoted to the MLB level on May 10th, the control issues continued for Holmes. In his first three MLB outings this season he walked five batters. In his last 15 outings, he has walked just nine. His improved control is a big reason why he is becoming a key piece to the Pirate bullpen puzzle.

In Tuesday night’s victory over the Chicago Cubs the Pirates needed someone to give them multiple innings out of the bullpen due to a rain delay cutting Joe Musgrove‘s start short after 3 innings. That someone was Holmes. Holmes gave Clint Hurdle 2 innings, and looked as good as he ever has in the process.

Holmes faced six batters and retired all of them. This included picking up four strikeouts. On the season, he now owns a 4.21 ERA, 4.02 FIP, 23.9% strikeout rate, and a 11.9% walk rate in 25 2/3 innings of work this season.

After struggling in his first two outings of the season, Holmes has started to settle in and excel as a full time reliever. In his last 16 outings Holmes has pitched 21 2/3 innings. Holmes owns a 3.74 ERA, 25.2% strikeout rate, 10.5% walk rate, and has allowed just one home run in these 21 2/3 innings of work.

Another factor in Holmes becoming a key piece in the bullpen puzzle is his versatility out of the bullpen. He has pitched 2+ innings in five of his 18 outings this season. Holmes brings the ability to be effective in both a 1 inning role, as well as a multiple inning role.

Holmes has always had the stuff to be a good MLB reliever. His average fastball velocity (94.5 MPH) and curveball spin rate both rank above league average. His slider has also been an effective pitch this inning limiting opposing hitters to a .200 batting average and a .291 wOBA.

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There are countless MLB pitchers that possess the stuff, but not always the control, needed to be an effective pitcher. Holmes spent the first year of his MLB career in this category. Now that the control is starting to come, he is developing into a key piece in the Pirate bullpen puzzle.

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