Three Bold Predictions For The Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 Season

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on September 10, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 10: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the bottom of the first inning against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on September 10, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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DENVER, CO – AUGUST 31: Michael Feliz #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 31, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – AUGUST 31: Michael Feliz #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on August 31, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) /

Michael Feliz takes over as the closer

It’s pretty much certain that recently named closer Keone Kela will be traded sometime during the 2020 season. So, when he is traded, who takes over as closer? I’d say one of the next in line is Michael Feliz.

Don’t let Feliz’s subpar surface numbers fool you. He showed much improvement in 2019, and, with a new, and likely better, pitching coach helping the entire team he will likely continue to improve.

His 3.99 ERA might not look pretty but it’s bloated by one game, if you even want to call it one game. The Bucs tried the opener strategy in 2019 a couple of times. It had mixed results, but throwing Feliz into the opener role who was just finally finding some footing into a new role wasn’t the greatest idea. He gave up 5 earned runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers and only recorded one out. Without that one game Feliz’s ERA drops to 3.21. Regardless after that one game, Feliz went on a tear. In his next 44.1 innings, the right hander posted a 2.84 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, and .698 opponent OPS. Baseball Savant puts his average exit velo in the 83rd percentile with his hard hit rate in the 79th percentile.

While his walk rate in the 4’s isn’t great, you can live with it speaking that he is in the 87th percentile of strikeout rate. Just one thing kept Feliz from being an elite level relief pitcher last season: the home run. 25% of all the hits Feliz gave up last season were home runs. While he gave up 11 long balls, he only gave up seven doubles, and one triple all last season.

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But with the baseball likely going to become un-juiced, and new guidance in coaching, things are pointing in the right direction for Michael Feliz. His pitches have had more movement each of the last two seasons, and I honestly think he could take over the 9th inning role by the end of the 2020 season.

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