Pittsburgh Pirates: Takeaways From Home Opening Series Victory Against the White Sox
By Marty Leap
Early returns on free agent starting pitching additions aren't good
This offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates added a pair of veteran starting pitchers in free agency when they signed Rich Hill and Vince Velasquez to one-year deals. While it's only been two starts each, the early returns on Hill and Velasquez have not been good.
Hill started Friday's home opener. Despite being handed a 7-4 lead entering the 5th inning, Hill would fail to even get an out in the 5th let alone finish the innings. The veteran lefty allowed 7 runs on eight hits, three home runs, no walks, and a strikeout in 4+ innings pitched.
Through his first two Pirate starts Hill has allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits, five home runs, two walks, and eight strikeouts in 9 innings pitched. Hill's biggest issue has been his command. He has been leaving far too many pitches in the good part of the strike zone where opposing batters can drive the ball.
At age 43, obviously, Hill's stuff is not what it once was. Hell, even in his prime he was never a true stuff pitcher. That only can cause him some problems. However, if he can fix his comman issues Hill should still be ok. It might be a release point issue, a plant issue, or something else completely, but if Hill and pitching coach Oscar Marin can fix whatever is plaguing Hill into leaving pitches over the strike zone he should be fine.
As for Velasquez, well, he's doing what he has done his entire career as a starting pitcher. Velasquez lasted just 2.2 innings on Saturday night, allowing 5 runs on six hits, four walks, and a strikeout. He has allowed 8 earned runs on 11 hits, five walks, two home runs, and four strikeouts in 7.1 innings pitched.
In his career Velasquez owns a 5.02 ERA, 4.64 FIP, 24.7% strikeout rate, 1.58 HR/9, and a .466 opposing slugging percentage as a starting pitcher. As a reliever, Velasquez owns a 4.66 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 26.9% strikeout rate, 0.98 HR/9, and a .391 opposition slugging percentage.
It is clear that Velasquez is better suited for a relief role. However, for now at least, he is entrenched in the Pirate starting rotation. JT Brubaker is on the injured list and possibly out for the season, Mike Burrows left his start with Triple-A Indy on Saturday with an injury, and Quinn Priester's fastball would get destroyed in the majors. Basically, until Luis Ortiz develops a consistent third pitch, Velasquez is locked into the starting rotation.