Rum Bunter’s 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates Staff Preview: Jack

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Pittsburgh Pirates, Joe Musgrove
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Team Cy Young – Joe Musgrove

I have been bullish on Joe Musgrove since he arrived in the 2018 Gerrit Cole trade, and, with Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer out for the year, Big Joe has a lot to prove. While Musgrove has not exactly proved me right, I am still bullish on the right-hander. Since his arrival, he has made 51 appearances and 50 starts, with a 17-21 record and 4.21 ERA, good for 3.1 WAR. Nothing flashy, but a FIP of 3.94 since joining the Pirates indicates that he has been the victim of a moderate amount of bad luck. In the team’s first exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians, Musgrove was impressive, striking out five over three innings while surrendering one hit, one walk, and no runs.

My optimism around Musgrove stems from two lines of thinking. First, I am hopeful that a new approach guided by new pitching coach Oscar Marin will help Musgrove reach his potential. Pitchers have been raving about Marin’s simple but effective use of analytics and his ability to cater to each pitcher’s strengths. Personally, I am alarmed that this was not the case under the previous regime, but it does provide hope that the pitching staff will take a big step forward in 2020.

The other source of hope is Musgrove’s fastball. In a brilliant article for FanGraphs entitled “Joe Musgrove is Sneaky Good,” Ben Clemens lays out how hard Musgrove’s fastball is hit when he averages 92.5 MPH as opposed to how effective the pitch is when he sits closer to 94 or 95 MPH. He was consistently hitting the latter in Saturday’s exhibition.

If Musgrove can maintain his fastball velocity, he can have an All-Star caliber campaign. Musgrove is extremely athletic and competitive, and a season boiled down to essentially a two-month pennant race should add fuel to his fire. I believe he will be a leader on the new-look team and sport a low-three’s ERA and rack up a considerable number of innings.