Following a strong final two months of the 2021 season left-handed reliever Anthony Banda could be in line for a breakout season with the Pittsburgh Pirates
When the 2022 MLB season begins there will be plenty of opportunities available for pitchers to make an impact with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will be especially true about the bullpen where there could be as many as six spots available entering spring training.
As we covered earlier in the offseason one reliever who could have an opportunity to earn a big role in the Pirate bullpen is lefty Anthony Banda. While we have already discussed Banda as a reliever who could play a big role out of the bullpen in 2022, today, we will delve into what makes him a breakout candidate.
Last season the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed Banda off waivers on August 2nd. Between the Pirates and New York Mets the 28-year-old lefty posted a 4.28 ERA and a 4.92 FIP in 33.2 innings pitched. His walk rate dropped from 13.9% in 2020 to 8.5% last season, while his strikeout rate rose from 11.1% to 20.9%.
What was most encouraging from Banda was his ability to limit quality contact. Banda limited opposing batters to a 34.0% hard hit rate and a 4.7% barrel rate, both of which were better than league average.
With the Pittsburgh Pirates, Banda’s numbers were even stronger than his overall numbers for the season. In 26.1 innings pitched as a Pirate he posted a 3.42 ERA. While his walk rate rose to 10.3% his 21.6% strikeout rate helped to offset this. He also limited opposing batters to just a 28.6% hard hit rate as a Pirate.
Banda threw his fastball more (47.9% up from 42.4% in 2020) and his changeup less (37.2% down from 51.8% in 2020), leading to both pitches being more effective. His fastball’s whiff rate rose from 15.4% to 22.4% while his changeup whiff rate rose from 24.4% to 28.8%.
Another change Banda made that could lead to continued success in 2022 was an increased use of his curveball. Banda threw just one curveball in 2020 but he threw his curveball 85 times (13.9%) last season. Opposing hitters slugged just .209 off of his curveball while it generated a 32.1% whiff rate.
With improved control and a new plan of attack with his pitches, Banda found success with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the final two months of the 2021 season. This could set Banda up to be a breakout candidate out of the bullpen in 2022.