After an up-and-down season, the starting rotation of the Pittsburgh Pirates finished the 2022 season on a high note while being led by arms that the team will rely upon heavily in 2023
There were a lot of lows for the Pittsburgh Pirates during their 2022 season. This does tend to be the case for a baseball team that finishes the season with a 62-100 record. For much of the season the starting rotation was a low.
However, the starting rotation was able to find a bit of a stride down the stretch. This should provide a source of some optimism entering the offseason and then into spring training and the 2023 season.
During the final 36 games of the season the Pirate starting rotation pitched well. This stretch comes out to roughly the final seven times through the starting rotation for the 2022 Pittsburgh Pirates.
In these 36 starts Pirate starting pitchers tossed 168.2 innings. Pirate starters posted a strong 3.63 ERA and a 3.87 FIP in these starts. They allowed just 15 home runs (0.80 HR/9), limited opposing batters to a .211 batting average, walked 9.7% of batters faced and struck out 21.7%.
It should be noted that these 36 starts included an outing for Duane Underwood Jr. as an opener.
One of the most encouraging signs during this stretch is who was making these starts for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Roansy Contreras, Mitch Keller, and Johan Oviedo, the likely top three in the team’s 2023 starting rotation, each made seven starts.
Luis Ortiz, who recently bolted up to being the 50th best prospect in baseball according to FanGraphs, made his first four MLB starts during this stretch. Additionally, JT Brubaker, who likely play a big role with the pitching staff in some fashion next season, also made four starts.
Now, pitching 168.2 innings across 36 starts is not a ton of innings. This comes out to just 4.6 innings per start. However, this does not tell the complete story. While this would normally be worrisome, there were multiple starts where young starters were pulled after just 3 or 4 innings as the Pirates watched their workload down the stretch. Due to this, only averaging 4.6 innings per start is now the red flag that it normally would be.
In the 126 starts leading up to this final stretch the Pirate starting rotation certainly took their lumps. The group posted a 4.41 ERA, 4.28 FIP, struck out just 18.85 of batters faced and allowed home runs at a 1.19 HR/9 clip.
One could argue that the strong finish was just a small sample size and should not be looked into much. That is a valid argument after all. That said, seeing important arms for the future such as Contreras, Keller, Oviedo and Ortiz pitch well during this stretch, is what matters most.
Ultimately, the Pirate starting rotation pitched very well over the final six weeks of the season. The fact that most of these starts were made by pitchers who will have to play a large role and have a successful 2023 season if the Pirates are to take a step forward on the field makes these results even more encouraging.