Our next list of examining three goals for each Pittsburgh Pirates position group this season is the bullpen, which has some very intriguging options coming up.
The Pittsburgh Pirates once had one of the best bullpens in baseball. Back in 2013-2015, they had shutdown guys like Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon and Tony Watson in the back end and a lot of depth that included the likes of the recently retired Jared Hughes, Justin Wilson, Arquimedes Caminero, Antonio Bastardo, Vin Mazzaro, Jeanmar Gomez and Bryan Morris.
The current Pirate bullpen has some question marks, but a bright future given the amount of young studs coming up through the system looking to find a place in the next Shark Tank. As we continue looking at every position and three goals, our next stop is in the bullpen. So let’s take a look at the first goal.
Goal 1: Find A Trade Partner For Richard Rodriguez And Chris Stratton
The Pittsburgh Pirates have essentially been willing to trade off any of their veteran players for the right price. One of their goals for this season needs to be to find a trade partner for both Chris Stratton and Richard Rodriguez.
The Pirates purchased Stratton’s contract from the Los Angeles Angles and he’s turned into a hidden gem for the Bucs. In the past two seasons Stratton has pitched 76.2 innings to the tune of a 3.76 ERA, 3.75 FIP and 1.36 WHIP. To go with his solid 8.5% walk rate, he’s struck out 26% of all the batters he’s faced.
Stratton had his best MLB season of his career in 2020. In 30 innings, he had a 3.90 ERA, 3.19 FIP and 1.3 WHIP. The ERA is a bit misleading as he gave up 3 runs in his final appearance of the season and going into that game, he had a 3.18 mark.
Stratton also had solid ERA estimators, all of which fell very close with each other. Stratton had an identical xFIP and SIERA at 3.50, 3.66 xERA and 3.42 DRA. While his walk rate was 9.9%, he put up a strikeout rate slightly north of 30% at 29.8% while having a 0.9 HR/9 and 46.8% ground ball rate. What Stratton lacks in velocity he makes up for in spin rate. Both his curveball and fastball were in the top 98th percentile of RPM in 2020.
Rodriguez bounces back from a rough 2019 season to post a 2.70 ERA, 2.85 FIP and 0.85 WHIP through 23.1 innings. Rodriguez put up his best single season striekout rate and walk rate of his career so far of 36.6% and 5.4%. He also had a strong 2.83 xFIP, 2.40 SIERA, 3.13 xERA and solid 3.57 DRA. Like Stratton, while Rodriguez’s fastball only sits around average in terms of velocity, he makes up for it in the spin he’s able to generate, sitting in the top 96th percentile of fastball RPM.
However, there is some concern with Rodriguez. For one, he only has a career ground ball rate of 40.1% and that’s right around where it was in 2020 (39.2%). What makes that potentially even worse is the fact he was in the bottom 3rd percentile of hard hit rate and in the bottom 1 percentile of exit velocity. He still managed a solid 1.16 HR/9 rate, but it’s still a potential worry.
Regardless of either Rodriguez’s or Stratton’s weaknesses, it’s made up by their cheap control for multiple years. Both have control through 2023 and both are making less than $2 million each in 2021.