P2Daily: Who is Getting the Innings Now?

I’ve been following how the Pittsburgh Pirates have been using their pitchers this year, mostly focusing on their usage of long-relievers and openers.

Part of that approach was due to the shortened Spring Training, and the need to stretch out starters during the season. The bullpen was needed for more innings early, in a temporary situation.

Not all of the early usage was temporary. The Pirates now have their starters stretched out, but are still using openers and long-relievers. While looking at the numbers yesterday, I noticed a key split in how the Pirates had used their pitchers the first three weeks of the season, compared to the last three,

Below is a breakdown of that split, and the significant innings changes that have taken place as the season has continued.

5+ Innings

1st 3 Weeks: N/A

Last 3 Weeks: Jose Quintana (5.75 IP), JT Brubaker (5)

Analysis: This demonstrates the part where the Pirates were limiting starter innings. The first three weeks didn’t see many starters going 5+ innings, with the long-relievers picking up extra work. The Pirates have stretched their starters out more recently. Jose Quintana was signed to eat innings, and is doing that. JT Brubaker has also emerged in that role. Both have an FIP in the 4.6-4.7 range, so the Pirates will need more than innings going forward.

4-4.99 Innings

1st 3 Weeks: Jose Quintana (4.67), Mitch Keller (4.33)

Last 3 Weeks: Mitch Keller (4.92), Zach Thompson (4.08)

Analysis: Keller has also increased his innings lately, though he’s not quite above the five inning average per game. Zach Thompson has stepped up a bit recently, consistently going more than four innings.

3-3.99 Innings

1st 3 Weeks: JT Brubaker (3.83), Bryse Wilson (3.78), Zach Thompson (3.33)

Last 3 Weeks: Bryse Wilson (3.44)

Analysis: This is the part where we start to really see the changes from starters getting stretched out. It’s also where we see that Bryse Wilson is falling behind the rest of the group. Wilson had a solid outing pitching in relief, but hasn’t carried that over to the rotation. With Roansy Contreras on the way, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wilson eventually moved to that long-relief role.

2-2.99 Innings

1st 3 Weeks: Roansy Contreras (2.56), Wil Crowe (2.22), Miguel Yajure (2.08), Dillon Peters (2.07), Chase De Jong (2.00)

Last 3 Weeks: Max Kranick (2.5)

Analysis: Again, we’re seeing the reduction of multi-inning relievers here, though really this is just the amount of guys who consistently pitched more than two innings. The long-relief aspect is still in effect, just with some changes that I’ll note below. The key thing here is that the Pirates have only had one pitcher average 2-3 innings the last few weeks, and Max Kranick was a replacement from Indianapolis. I could see Wilson moving down to this tier when Contreras arrives, while Contreras should go up to the 5+ inning tier, hopefully.

1-1.99 Innings

1st 3 Weeks: Aaron Fletcher (1.22), David Bednar (1.14)

Last 3 Weeks: Dillon Peters (1.87), Chase De Jong (1.87), David Bednar (1.25), Wil Crowe (1.10), Miguel Yajure (1.0)

Analysis: The Pirates are still using Dillon Peters as a multi-inning guy, giving him work as an opener. Chase De Jong has also gotten multiple innings. The biggest change here is Wil Crowe going from a 2-3 inning pitcher the first few weeks to a 1+ inning guy the last few weeks. I could see him emerging this year as the second-best leverage reliever behind Bednar. Crowe’s role has been the most significant change this year.

0-0.99 Innings

1st 3 Weeks: Anthony Banda (0.87), Chris Stratton (0.81), Heath Hembree (0.79)

Last 3 Weeks: Chris Stratton (0.96), Heath Hembree (0.81), Anthony Banda (0.75), Aaron Fletcher (0.67)

Analysis: This group has late-game, single-inning relievers like Stratton and Hembree, who are having massively different results this year. It also includes more situational guys like Anthony Banda and Aaron Fletcher, who consistently go about two outs per appearance.

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Stephen B

For all the discussion about how the Pirates are adopting a Rays-like strategy, it sure is starting to trend toward pretty standard pitcher usage in the modern age. They’ll count on Contreras, Brubaker and Quintana pitching into the 6th or beyond, hope for 5-and-dive from Keller and Thompson, and have Wilson and Peters serve as piggybacks on those two if they exit early. Crowe is turning into a late-inning pitcher. The other dudes might be asked to get 4-5 outs but that’s hardly revolutionary.

The guy that sticks out is Hembree. He can’t be trusted with a lead, but he’s tossing less than an inning per appearance, which makes him about as useful as a bucket of warm spit. In the age of the 3-batter rule, the guy who can’t get two of those batters out is pretty much toast.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I think it all really comes down to quality. They don’t have the quality of starters to have 4-5 guys capable of 5-6+ IP. They may want to attempt the Rays model, but they don’t have the quality to maintain it consistently, because of guys like you mention in Hembree. We would need Crowe, Peters, Banda, De Jong, etc. to all have career years (luck) essentially to emulate it.

Stephen B

Well, when your pen is made up almost entirely of other teams’ DFAs, that’s pretty much the strategy going in – career years from otherwise meh careers.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Yeah, and for some reason they decided Beede was worthy of a claim.

Wilbur Miller

With some work and some luck, they may be able to get him up to meh level.

MWT

Why is Keller exempt from their new pitching philosophy? With Crowe, Peters and even Wilson looking like they benefit from this hybrid-type role, what reason do they have to believe it wouldn’t also work on Keller?

Put Keller in the bullpen and allow him to build confidence in getting outs instead of worrying about going deep into games. Then if he starts to show improvement/consistency, you can always slot him back in the rotation later. The philosophy of throwing him out there every 5 days and just hoping he has it that day hasn’t worked in the 3 years they’ve been doing it.

If they’re so worried he’s going to move on and turn into the next Tyler Glasnow (which I doubt), why not explore every avenue to find success?? Especially one you’re already implementing.

PirateRican21

You are right about no one worrying that Keller will follow Glasgow’s breakout. Glasgow had two above average pitches, but poor command. Keller does not have any above average pitches and poor command.

skliesen

When he commands both his fastball and curveball in the same game, both pitches become above average. He isn’t successful any other way because his third pitch is always below average.

jeffw3000

I agree Keller should get moved to the pen. He has had plenty of chances to work out his problems as a starter. If he starts to show improvements in the pen, you can try him again as a starter.

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