The Pittsburgh Pirates could turn Bailey Falter into a solid and productive pitcher if they make some of these adjustments to his game
The Pittsburgh Pirates made a surprising buzzer beater trade, sending infielder Rodolfo Castro to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for left-handed pitcher Bailey Falter. Falter has struggled at times in his brief Major League career. However, there are things the Pirates could do to turn the left-hander around and make him into a quality Major League arm.
The Pirates already accomplished the first thing, and that’s getting him out of Philadelphia. Falter has very apparent home/away splits. When pitching in Citizens Bank Park, Falter owns a 5.23 ERA, 4.81 FIP, and 1.29 WHIP. However, when Falter has been used in road games, he has a much improved 4.10 ERA, 4.29 FIP, and 1.25 WHIP.
Sure, while Falter doesn’t become an ace on the road, the difference is someone who wouldn’t stick in most starting rotations, and a league-average, maybe even a slightly above-average starting pitcher.
The biggest thing Falter has struggled with throughout his career is home runs. The lefty has a 1.59 career HR/9 rate. However, his HR/9 rate between Citizens Bank Park, and anywhere else is a drastic difference. When he pitches at home, his HR/9 is 1.84 while his away HR/9 rate is 1.43. That’s still not great, but a large enough gap to make a difference. Plus, Citizens Bank Park has consistently ranked top ten in home run park factor while PNC has been in the bottom ten of home run park factor for the last three seasons.
The second thing is something the Pirates have a good feel for, and that’s Bailey’s slider. Falter has only thrown his slider 10.7% of the time this year, but it’s been a highly effective offering when he uses it. Opponents own just a .167 batting average and .292 wOBA against it. The Pirates have been good at getting their pitchers to throw an effective slider. Bailey could definitely benefit from using his slider 15% of the time, instead of around 10%.
Next thing is to get Falter to throw his four-seam fastball up in the zone more often. One of the comparisons Baseball Savant makes based on pitch velocity and movement is 2022 Jose Quintana, who was outstanding for the Pirates last season. Quintana’s four-seamer in 2022 had almost identical velocity and spin to Falter’s fastball now. Quintana worked more up in the zone more often than Falter has. This worked extremely well for Quintana, as his four-seamer had the 22nd highest run value of any pitch at -17, and the 13th most effective fastball last year.
Not only could Falter potentially benefit from changing the location where he typically uses his fastball, but could benefit from two things that Quintana didn’t throw his fastball with, and that’s extension and active spin. Extension is the measurement between the release point and home plate. While Quintana was in the 63rd percentile of extension in 2022, Falter is in the 99th percentile, which would give the appearance that his fastball has more zip than it does. Falter also throws his fastball with an active spin rate of 95%, which helps it have that carrying movement through the zone. In comparison, Quintana’s active spin rate on his fastball last year was just 84%.
Falter may not be an ace, but there are some things he and the Pirates can do to make him better. Getting him out of Philly will help given his large home/away splits, and his struggles with the long ball in the Phillies’ home park. However, the Pirates must also get him to use his fastball more up in the zone given its faster appearance with his arm extension, as well as its spin that could help it carry through the zone easier.