Pittsburgh Pirates: Slide Continues as Team is Swept by Nationals
By Marty Leap
Derek Shelton’s frustrating handling of the starting rotation
This series was a frustrating one for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates in many ways. One of the frustrating parts of the series was manager Derek Shelton’s handling of the starting rotation, which is not a new frustration for fans.
In the game one loss Shelton pulled JT Brubaker after just 5 innings of work. Brubaker allowed just 2 runs on 4 hits and a pair of walks in his 5 innings of work, he had done this while throwing just 71 pitches.
46 of 71 Brubaker’s pitches went for strikes which is a strong 65% strike rate. He had also gotten ahead in the count to 16 of the 21 batters he faced. This was the second straight start in which Brubaker was pulled early leading to people scratching their heads.
Wednesday afternoon Chase De Jong also threw just 71 pitches before being pulled. While De Jong did walk 4 batters he had a near identical strike rate to Brubaker, throwing 62% of his pitches for strikes.
De Jong pitched just 4 innings in his start, limiting the Nationals to just 1 run. This lone run came on a solo home run by Yan Gomes. De Jong also did an excellent job of pitching out of a bases loaded with just 1 out jam in the 4th inning when he recording a strikeout and a soft infield pop out.
Yes, Brubaker is a young, promising arm and the Pittsburgh Pirates are likely looking to watch his workload after last season. That said, at some point the training wheels need to be taken off and he needs to be given the opportunity to start to learn to pitch deeper into games.
As for De Jong, he may be new to the Major Leagues but he is a grizzled veteran of the minor leagues. De Jong should be capable of going much deeper into a game than just 71 pitches. Especially when he had earned an opportunity to stay in the game after escaping potential disaster in the 4th inning.
So, what about the middle game of the series? Well, in the team’s loss on Tuesday night there is a strong argument to be made that Shelton left starter Tyler Anderson in the game too long. The veteran lefty was permitted to throw 102 pitches while allowing 6 runs on 10 hits, a grand slam, a walk and 4 strikeouts in 6 innings of work.
There is an argument to be made that Shelton needed length on Tuesday night leading to him leaving Anderson in the game longer than he otherwise would have, that same argument can be made for De Jong on Wednesday afternoon. Shelton’s decision when it comes to managing the starting rotation continue to often times be head scratching.