The Pittsburgh Pirates have relied on Richard Rodriguez to be their closer. He’s been flat-out dominant allowing just a single earned run in 19 innings. He’s only walked a single batter. Rodriguez has seen his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates go down significantly. His strikeout rate went from 36.6% in 2020 to 23.4%. Both his whiff rate and chase rate are well below the league average as well. Though he’s below average in exit velocity, he’s been above average in hard-hit rate and has significantly decreased the amount of line drives hit off of him. His ERA estimators currently sit with a 3.87 SIERA, 4.66 xFIP and 5.42 DRA. They’re mainly down because of his lack of strikeouts this year. Still, one earned run and one walk in nearly 20 innings is outstanding.
Top relief prospect and Pittsburgh native David Bednar has also been outstanding. He currently has a 3.12 ERA, 3.55 FIP and a 0.98 WHIP through 17.1 innings. He has struck out batters at an astounding 32.4% rate and only walked them at a 5.9% rate. He’s also been good in terms of exit velocity (88.4 MPH), and hard-hit rate (33.3%). But home runs have been his biggest issue. His 1.56 HR/9 rate is really his only weak spot. He also has a really good 2.91 xFIP, 2.60 SIERA, although he does have a 4.13 DRA. Bednar could be one of the Pirates’ main late-inning options by the end of the season.
Chris Stratton and Clay Holmes have also been solid this year. Holmes has shown some better control this year with just a 6.7% walk rate. Chris Stratton has seen his strikeout rate fall from last year, but he’s been pretty decent all year. Lefty Sam Howard has also been a pretty decent arm but has struggled heavily with walks (17.4%) and strikeouts (1.80 HR/9).
Rule 5 pick Luis Oviedo has flashed some pretty impressive stuff but hasn’t gotten the results he’s wanted. Duane Underwood Jr. got off to a hot start but has struggled recently. Kyle Crick has also bounced back from a rough 2019-2020.
For the most part, the Pirate bullpen has been solid this season. Rodriguez, Bednar, Crick, Holmes and Howard have been reliable all season thus far. After getting off to a slow start, Stratton has responded with a terrific May, and Underwood Jr. has pitched well outside of two poor outings. When the Pittsburgh Pirates have been able to give their bullpen a lead they have been nearly unbeatable.