Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Left-Handed Pitching Free Agent Targets

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Kwang Hyun Kim #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 23, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cardinals defeated the Brewers 8-5. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 23: Kwang Hyun Kim #33 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on September 23, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Cardinals defeated the Brewers 8-5. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /
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NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 30: Rich Hill #21 of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on September 30, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 30: Rich Hill #21 of the New York Mets pitches in the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on September 30, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Rich Hill

It seems every time Rich Hill’s career is nearing its end, he finds a way to revitalize himself and make it another year. While 2022 will be his age-42 season, I doubt after his solid 2021 campaign he’s going to call it quits just yet.

Hill is coming off a solid season where he tossed 158.2 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets. Overall, he posted a 3.86 ERA, 4.34 FIP, and 1.21 WHIP. While his strikeout rate was nothing to write home about, 22.7% is still usable. Plus he had an 8.3% walk rate. Hill wasn’t the greatest at limiting home runs but again, a 1.19 mark is passable.

Hill had an above-average exit velocity (88.3 MPH) and hard-hit rate (34.8%). That helps make up for some mediocre batted ball rates. He also saw his whiff rate rebound from just 15.9% in 2020 to 23.1% this year. Hill clearly isn’t a hard thrower, but he still has above-average spin on his offerings, being in the top 71st percentile of fastball RPM and top 81st percentile of curveball spin.

The major issue that comes with Hill is his poor ERA estimators. He has a 4.70 xFIP,4.43 SIERA, and 4.97 DRA, which comes closer to a mid-to-upper 4 ERA pitcher based on those numbers. Plus he posted his worst ground ball rate since 2011. Not the right direction you want those numbers to be trending. Hill also has some injury concerns. While he stayed healthy for the majority of the 2021 season, it’s the first time he’s pitched more than 150 innings since way back in 2007.

Still, Hill can provide a solid left-handed starting pitcher in 2022. The very worst-case scenario is the Pittsburgh Pirates take a very low-risk, one-year deal in the $2-5 million range and he only pitches 80-100 innings, or his underlying numbers catch up to him and they eventually release him. The best-case scenario is that he gives them 120-150 innings and 25 starts and a mid-to-upper 3 ERA. There’s almost no risk involved in a deal that small to a starting pitcher who’s been quite solid the last handful of seasons.

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