First Pitch: The Pirates Pitching Depth, as Told Through Flow Charts

Last night I uploaded flow charts, illustrating the depth at each position in the starting lineup for the Pittsburgh Pirates. I enjoyed making the charts, and I’m glad that so many of you enjoyed reading the article. A few of you requested that I do the same for the pitching staff, and that would be fitting today, since I just previewed the starting rotation battles heading into Spring Training.

The problem was that I didn’t know how to set up the pitcher articles. Most of the offense charts were about questioning whether a specific player was healthy and/or performing well. There’s also the fact that you only have one player to replace, where as a rotation and bullpen consists of multiple players doing the same job.

The solution was to consider those groups as one, rather than look at each individual rotation spot. The other key difference was that most of the pitching depth options were about timing, and whether one of the top prospects in Triple-A was ready. Once I settled on that, the rest came easy.

You asked for it (or maybe you didn’t). Here are the flow charts for the starting pitching and bullpen depth for the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 2015 season.

(TIP: Click the image to get a full size version if the text is too small.)

Starting Rotation


Closer and Set-up Man


Middle Relievers


**Spring Training starts today with pitchers and catchers reporting. You can prepare for the season by purchasing the 2015 Prospect Guide, which gives scouting reports on 200+ prospects in the system, along with the top 50 prospects.

**This week we’re going to start a new Q&A feature. I’ve placed a form on the right side of each page where you can submit your questions for each week. I’m aiming to have the first one done by Friday, so submit your questions. I will say that with Spring Training starting up, I’m not going to have much time to check the comments, which is where a lot of questions get asked. So if you’ve got a question for me specifically (or for John Dreker, although he will probably answer in the comments), then use the form on the right side of every page.

**A Video Comparison Of Jung-Ho Kang And Jordy Mercer At Shortstop. The article also has links to Kang taking batting practice, and my story from last week about how Kang wants to pave the way to MLB for other Korean players.

**It’s Vance Worley Vs Jeff Locke For The Lone Battle In The Rotation

**2015 Altoona Curve: Top Prospects, Roster Projections, And Position Battles

**Three Pirates Make Fangraphs Top 100 List


Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Why wins and losses count.It’s easy, look at a pitchers era, k to walk ratio and innings pitched these are the only stats you need to tell if a pitcher is good or not. The rest of the #s are filler to give folks something to do and should only matter to coaches as an evaluating tool. Xfip and all the rest have their uses,they do not take the place of wins, era k/ walks and innings. Use them as an argument if you wish it won’t change what has worked for 150 plus years.


Except, you know, for every single Major League team. But other than that, no, it hasn’t changed anything.


Mind telling me which teams do not track pitcher wins,era,strikeout to k ratio and innings pitched? Maybe I missed something.


You have missed something. I promise you almost every single front office (including the pirates) does not care at all about pitcher wins. These are smart people in a highly competitive business, they’re not bothering with these meaningless statistics.


How to reply to something like this, oh yeah, you don’t. So have a nice day:)


Enjoy living in the past!


Still looking for a decent explanation of why Radhames Liz is not a better Ray-Searage-bounce-back candidate than Clayton Richards…


Nice flow chart. Only “criticism” – and it’s a somewhat minor one – is that instead of “Pick your poison (and start focusing about the 2016 draft)”, you could have said something like “Pursue a trade for a serviceable but cheap 5th starter”.


Tim, considering the health of the coaching staff (and the number of surgeries they required in the last year), maybe you should do a flow chart of the coaching depth. At the very least it gives some of us a better picture of who is on the coaching staff outside of Hurdle, Searage and Benedict.


Don’t forget that banister is railing away in texas.


Options for callups,options for trades, options for who is buying chinese takeout after the game,ect… so many options. And the best news of all is that spring training is finally here. Although the guys might feel like they are still up north as we are having the coldest weather of the year here in fl. (Not in comparison to up north but still cold for fl.)


Pilbo – The weather is relative. I am so sick of this SH*T up here in the mountains of central Pa. I mean, it’s so cold up here that when you breathe your mucus membranes seize up. It’s so cold up here that when you start your car it screams in protest… for 30 minutes…. It’s so cold up here that the SUN came out YESTERDAY and we got into the single digits with no wind and I was outside in a T-shirt and a scarf with a pair of gloves on going…. THIS is NICE!

…(cold for florida. sheesh. sufferin’ succotash.)….



Lol, I was born and raised in central pa so I know all about frozen nose hair. You should also try my personal favorite, take a hot shower and stick your head out the window and time how long it takes for your hair to freeze, I guaroontee you’ll have helmet head in seconds.

Chris Hale

This has got to be Morton’s last shot at being a starting pitcher for the Pirates. 5-11 seasons aren’t going to cut it anymore. Yes he has a nice ground ball rate, yes he had a decent ERA. But there’s better options coming and Vance Worley put up a mid 2’s ERA from those back end spots in the rotation plus you have a lot of upside and inning eaters getting ready to make the leap to the major leagues. I’d like to see Taillon pitch really great in his rehab from TJS and be held back because he is being blocked. It would e nice to get Kingham a full season at AAA and Sampson too.This would mean Guys are healthy and performing


LOL. Not even close…


you guys look out… this guy is sharp…


Chris: For the record in 2014 –

Vance Worley, 17 Starts, 111 IP, 8-4, 2.85 ERA, $500K
Jeff Locke, 21 Starts, 132 IP, 7-6, 3.91, $500K
Charlie Morton, 26 Starts, 157 IP, 6-12, 3.72 ERA, $4.00 mil

Morton is the guy that you wait and hope every year that this is the year it all comes together and he stays healthy. In 2015 he will be making $8 mil, and for that salary, I think we can expect at least 30 starts a year at a # 3 SP or better level. I have stated before that we need the Charlie Morton who will give us a 12-6 rather than 6-12. Maybe it’s just tough luck, but there has to be a limit.


Come on Emj, you are better than that. Wins, seriously?


One more things on wins, if they were at all meaningful then you would think that a good pitcher’s wins would be predictive year to year. You know, he’s an ace so he should win similar games every year. Look at King Felix’s win totals over his career- 12,14,9,19,13,14,13,12,15. Probably the 2nd best pitcher in MLB has one 15+ games 2 times in 9 years. Its just sillyness, Kevin Correa won 12 games in back to back years for us. Are we arguing he is just as good as King Felix?


There’s another stat that should tell anybody with a cogent thought why a pitcher who is otherwise good has a not so good win loss record, it’s called team wins and losses or better known as twal.


pb/All: I love stats – standard and/or advanced because they all give us a measure of expectation for a player. But this is not a board game and expectations and indicators are just that – as pb stated earlier, nobody adds them up and awards wins based on stats.

At the end there are 10 Teams that play on and 20 that go home and that truth is based solely on number of WINS. It does not matter how they came, whether deserved or undeserved, just a number.

Anybody who thinks CM was given a 3 yr/$21 mil contract by the Pirates in 2013 on the possibility of him becoming a #4 /5 SP in our Rotation has not been paying attention to how the Pirates do business. They expected a #3 at worst and the possibility of him being a #2 /3 based on his 7-4, 3.26 ERA in 20 Starts the second half of 2013.

He had and showed promise, and we had expectations. In 2014 we did not receive what was expected, and in 2015 it is time for him to step up, fish or cut bait, or any other saying that exists.


If ya don’t count wins what’s the point of playing, the win being under siege is ridiculous. It is a stat like any other and should be used accordingly. All fans can look at team wins and losses and with few exeptions see if a win loss record is because of team vs. Player. I do agree that how a pitcher is given a win or loss should be tweeked a bit. All I’m saying is relax folks and remember winning is’nt everything it’s the only thing.


Team wins = we count those, of course, most important thing!

Pitcher wins = not the same, assigned in weird ways, not very reliable predictors! It’s 2015, get with the program.


All stats are meaningful, why is it you saber guys think you can toss certain stats and keep others, if you deny yourself the use of a rake because you bought a new hoe you’ll have a sore back. In other words use all the tools at your disposal the job will be a lot easier.


It’s a bad analogy. We deny the use of a rake because we found a better one.


I’ll count wins when you explain to me how a pitcher has control over the runs his team scores or how his bullpen performs when he is out of the game. It is a team stat that is useless when evaluating an individual.

Look at Morton last year – he had 5 starts of 6IP and 2 runs or less allowed where he did not get a win. If you want to hold that against him please provide a reasonable explanation.


Pitch location, an inch this way and that three run homer is a soft fly ball. Every play in baseball starts and ends with the pitcher, a ball two inches that way and it’s not a sharply hit single it’s a groundout to second. Any and every pitcher has direct outcome on everyplay during the game so why should’nt he be awarded for pitching well with a win and given a loss for pitching poorly?


Because wins are not awarded for pitching well or poorly. They are awarded for your team having a lead or trailing when you leave the game. Tou get a win if you throw 5 innings and give up 7 runs as long as your team has 8. You cant seriously think that a 7 inning 1 hit shutout performance is a poor outing.


Losing is losing no matter the form. And I did say that the way a pitchers win or loss is awarded needs to be tweeked.


Geez, I forgot his 7 innings of 1 hit ball vs STL last year, or 8 innings of 3 hit vs the SFG. I guess he didn’t do enough to win those days.


You haven’t been paying attention to Major League Baseball for the last half decade, at least, if you think *any* team can expect 30 starts from a #3 or better for only $8m.


We’re not still using a pitcher’s W-L as the way we decide if they are good or not, are we?


Pitcher Wins: the last dying gasps of a losing argument.


Those dying gasps are just a figment of your imagination, take a deep breath and you’ll be fine.


Should I go to the doctor if this lasts for over four hours? 😉


Lol, I just choked on my broccoli.


What’s next awarding team wins based on babip vs. xfip? C’mon folks let a little light through the curtains so you don’t go blind.


Josh: His stats in 2014 were good, but at some point that has to translate into wins. The Pirates were 14 games over .500 last year and he was 6-12. Is he just unlucky? Remember 2013 when he was 7-4, 3.26 ERA? Give me more of that. In fact, give me 7-4, 4.50 ERA and I will be happy.

Scott Kliesen

Considering they signed Ground Chuck to a 3-year deal last season, I’m led to believe they like what he brings to the table more than some of us fans.

As for Kingham, Sampson and Taillon, given the age and injury history of Pirates starting rotation, I’d be shocked if we don’t see at least a couple of these guys pitching significant innings in Pit this year.


I like chuck and want to see him do well, now that he has his health in order maybe he can show up consitently all year. I for one would very much like to see that.

Scott Kliesen

Early season success for him is key. Confidence the changes he made to his delivery work.

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