Pittsburgh Pirates: Rich Hill Set to Improve the Rotation, Provide Veteran Leadership

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox
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After signing a one-year deal in free agency veteran lefty Rich Hill will be a boost to the Pirate starting rotation, clubhouse, and young pitchers this season

It was a busy offseason for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Making more moves to add to the roster than they had in quite awhile, one of the most notable moves the team made was to sign veteran starting pitcher Rich Hill.

The 42, soon to be 43, year old Hill and the Pittsburgh Pirates agreed to a one-year, $8 million contract in free agency. The addition of Hill is one that will benefit the Pirates in multiple ways, and it is one that will set Hill up to be one of the leaders of the club.

First and foremost, Hill is still a good MLB starting pitcher. Last season, the lefty posted a 4.27 ERA and a 3.92 FIP in 124.1 innings pitched in 26 starts with the Boston Red Sox. Hill walked 7.0% of batters faced, struck out 20.7% of opposing batters, and limited home runs to a 1.09 HR/9. Posting a 1.8 fWAR, Hill would have been, at worst, the third best pitcher in the Pirate starting rotation last season.

Hill also still throws multiple plus pitches, so there is no reason to believe he will all of a sudden go off a cliff due to his age. Last season Hill's curveball spin rate ranked in the 74th percentile of baseball while his fastball spin rate was in the 55th percentile. Opposing batters slugged just .367 off of his curveball while his fastball generated a 24.3% whiff rate. Additionally, his cutter had a 25.0% whiff rate and his slider a 31.6% whiff rate.

These pitches contributed to opposing batters struggling to square up the ball against Hill last season. Opposing batters had an averaged exit velocity of 88.2 MPH and a hard hit rate of 34.0% against Hill, both of which are below league average for a hitter. His 7.0% walk rate was also 1.4% better than league average.

What Hill will bring to the starting rotation may prove to be trumped but what he can bring to the clubhouse and the team's young starting pitchers. In recent seasons the Pirates have sorely lacked quality veteran leadership and guidance in teh clubhouse. With the addition of Hill, as well as players such as Andrew McCutchen, Austin Hedges, and Carlos Santana, that should not be an issue this season.

Hill can be an invaluable resource for young pitchers to talk to about a variety of aspects of pitching. How to attack hitters, what to do to battle through a start when your stuff isn't working, among other topics.

In fact, Hill's impact has already been seen in Bradenton. On Friday, Hill was spotted talking to Johan Oviedo about pitch grips and release points after Hill watched Oviedo's bullpen session.

Those are the types of contributions Hill can make to the 2023 Pittsburgh Pirates that are invaluable. They're the type of impacts that can be long lasting and be felt for years to come. Not dissimilar to the type of impact A.J. Burnett once had.

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