The Pittsburgh Pirates have used Dillon Peters in multiple roles since arriving to the organization, but should he take up a more traditional rotation spot?
Who would’ve guessed that Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander Dillon Peters would reel off 16.2 innings of no-run baseball to start the 2022 campaign? Peters has served multiple roles since being acquired by the Pirates last year. But should he be moved to more of a traditional starter role?
In 2021 when the Pittsburgh Pirates originally acquired Peters, he primarily served a role of a traditional starter. The only outing that lasted three or fewer innings was the last of his six outings where he struggled. But other than that, the Pirates used him as a starter commonly would be utilized.
To start off this year, Peters was in the bullpen, serving as a multi-inning specialist. Peters has lasted fewer than two innings in just two of his eight appearances so far. Two of his last games were starts but more closely resembled an opener-type role. On April 27th, Peters pitched just two innings before passing the torch to right-hander Bryse Wilson. The southpaw pitched his longest outing yet on Wednesday when he tossed 3.1 innings of work.
Peters has been a ground-ball/soft-contact merchant. Although he has a sub-par 10.9% walk rate and about league average 23.6% strikeout rate, Peters has a 52.7% ground ball rate. Combined with an 85.6 MPH exit velocity (top 88th percentile) and 27.8% hard-hit rate (top 89th percentile) and it’s no wonder why Peters has done so well this year.
Although traditional ERA estimators like xFIP and SIERA are optimistic about his outlook at 3.71 and 3.64, respectively, Baseball Savant’s xERA is likely the best number to use in this case, given the kind of pitcher he is. Since he’s so good at inducing weak contact and keeping the ball close to the ground, xERA takes both exit velo and launch angle much more into account than other advanced metrics. xERA pins him at 2.21. Chances are, Peters, doesn’t become the first pitcher ever to play an entire season without being scored upon, but if the very worst is a guy with a mid-3’s ERA, then he should be just fine moving forward.
So does that mean the Pirates should move Peters to a more traditional role? While Peters has excelled so far this season, the move as a multi-inning opener has been very beneficial to more than just the lefty. Wilson has also benefited from the move to the bullpen as he piggy-backs off of Peters. In Wilson’s last two appearances, he has pitched 7.2 innings without allowing an earned run. He has walked just a single batter while striking out 10.
Between the two piggy-back starts for the Peters/Wilson combo, the two have pitched 13 innings, no earned runs (3 unearned), four walks, and 15 strikeouts. For a starting rotation that has had a ton of struggles, the Pirates need to find a way to get the best possible results out of what they have. So far, the Peters/Wilson combo has worked like clockwork.
The Pirates should stick with what’s worked so far this year and use Peters as the multi-inning opener for Wilson. This could also give the rotation a big boost. José Quintana has been reliable this year, and Mitch Keller has a 3.38 ERA in his last three starts. Plus, the underlying numbers for Keller paint a much prettier picture. Once Roansy Contreras arrives later this month, the team might actually be able to get some wins from their starters, even if Peters is just a piggy-back-like option.