How long of a leash will the Pirates give Bailey Falter?

With the Pittsburgh Pirates opening the year with Bailey Falter in their rotation, how much of a leash will they give the left-hander?
Sep 19, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bailey Falter (44) throws
Sep 19, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bailey Falter (44) throws / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates made the questionable decision to give Bailey Falter the final rotation spot to open the 2024 season. However, this was met with much criticism by fans. Falter had uninspiring numbers with the Bucs after the trade deadline last season and an even worse Spring Training. But with a lot of up-and-coming talent, some solid depth options, and a couple of arms in the pen who could start games, just how much of a leash will the Pirates give Falter?

Falter was acquired at the trade deadline last year from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for infielder Rodolfo Castro. The Southpaw appeared in ten games for the Pirates down the stretch, pitching to a 5.58 ERA, 5.72 FIP, and 1.39 WHIP in 40.1 innings. Falter had a strong seven percent walk rate, but a below-average 18.6 percent strikeout rate, and an even more worrisome 2.23 HR/9. Although Falter’s numbers weren’t good, there are more positives to take away other than his walk rate.

Two of Falter’s outings resulted in 14 earned runs allowed. Outside of those two games, he had just a 2.86 ERA in 34.2 innings. Falter also looked significantly better in shorter outings. Through 17.2 innings out of the pen, Falter owned a 1.02 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 4.27 FIP. Falter also has some deceptive qualities to his mechanics. The way he spins his four-seam fastball gives it ride through the zone, and his release point extension adds about two ticks of velocity to his stuff. Falter’s fastball also had gained about 1.0 MPH from last year.

Even though there are some positives, I totally understand the frustration of having Falter listed as the 5th starter, especially after he allowed 14 earned runs and six home runs in 16 Spring Training innings. But I do not believe the Pirates will give Falter much of a leash. The Pirates are also starting the year with Luis Ortiz in the bullpen, who could act as a piggyback for Falter. He, along with Roansy Contreras and Josh Fleming could help support an opener strategy for Falter.

If Bailey Falter, well, falters, it’s not like the Pirates don’t have the depth they could turn to. They signed minor league deals with Eric Lauer, Domingo German, Wily Peralta, and Brent Honeywell Jr., all of whom could take Falter’s roster spot and all of whom looked better in Spring Training. They also have Quinn Priester on the 40-man roster, who may become the go-to option if Falter struggles out of the gate.

Either way, regardless of if Falter does good and or bad and is let go, this feels like they’re just trying to bridge the gap for Paul Skenes. Skenes is starting the year at Triple-A Indianapolis and will get stretched out there before reaching the Major Leagues. Before people wail ‘service time manipulation,’ remember that Skenes has not pitched 5+ innings in a game since the College World Series last June. Sure, service time is a factor, but an even more significant factor is that all of Skenes’ outings since then have been fairly short unless you count any simulated games.

Falter is probably going to be given a short leash to open 2024. The Bucs have Luis Ortiz, Roansy Contreras, and Josh Fleming on the 40-man roster, with Brent Honeywell Jr., Domingo German, Wily Peralta, and Eric Lauer at Triple-A, along with prospects like Quinn Priester, Jackson Wolf, and Sean Sullivan also at Indianapolis, all of whom are helping bridge the gap for Paul Skenes.