We will never know just how the Pittsburgh Pirates originally planed on utilizing Johan Oviedo heading into the season.
Set to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the rotation, the options were either use him as a swing-man of sorts out the major league bullpen, or send him to Triple-A to stay stretched out as a starter.
With JT Brubaker heading to the Injured List to begin the season, that conversation became moot, as Oviedo will slide into his place as one of the five starting pitchers.
As we saw in his last tune-up before the season started, Oviedo has a fastball that can push the upper-90s, but a lot like fellow starter Luis Ortiz, didn’t have a great track record of generate swings and misses with the pitch, despite the velocity.
In fact, Oviedo’s whiff rate on his fastball (13.6%) was ranked 510th in baseball last year.
On the flip side, he had one of the better sliders, especially when it comes to Run Value on Baseball Savant (23rd). Generally speaking, not being able to generate a lot swings and misses with the fastball isn’t the best recipe for success, unless you have another couple of pitches you can rely on.
Enter Tuesday’s start for Oviedo, where he pitched five innings, allowing six hits, and two runs while striking out seven.
Attacking backwards, 33 of the 70 pitches Oviedo threw were sliders, with just 25 being fastballs (two were recorded as sinkers). That’s a 33% fastball usage, which is right at a ten-point drop in percentage compared to what he did in 2022.
The plan worked perfectly, as he generated nine whiffs on 20 overall swings with the slider. Overall he picked up 13 whiffs on 27 (48.14%) non-fastballs. That was all while he faded towards the end of his outing, allowing more balls in play during his final frame.
Using the slider so much had a secondary effect. Hitters kept looking for it, and that allowed him to fool them with the fastball. He picked up nine called strikes on the 25 total fastballs he threw.
After spending most of the spring expecting to have a certain role within the organization, Oviedo was thrust into something completely different. He responded exactly how you would want.
Pirates Prospects Daily
By John Dreker
The Pirates closed out their spring with a 7-5 loss to the Minnesota Twins. Here’s the boxscore. They finished with a 9-18-3 record. They had the second worst record of the 30 teams in Spring Training. They also had the second worst run differential (-47 runs). In both instances, they were only ahead of the Miami Marlins. Today’s an off-day. Tomorrow the fun starts.
**Pirate City Notes: Henry Davis Gets Work in Right Field Tim Williams reported from Pirate City, where Henry Davis was getting work in right field.
**Pirates Make Two More Cuts to the Spring Roster While they didn’t announce the final roster, seeing as a late pickup is always possible, the Pirates got down to 26 healthy players in camp.
**The Pirates Opening Day Roster is Nearly Complete Some earlier moves that were confirmed
**Fangraphs Ranks the Teams by Every Position A look at how the Pirates stack up at each position compared to the other 29 teams.
**Canaan Smith-Njigba Showing Complete Hitting Ability This Spring An in depth look at Smith-Njigba, who won a job this spring
**Final Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training Observations
**Pirates Prospects Daily: The Difference Between Injury Prone and Freak Injury
**Pirates DVR: Yordany De Los Santos, Connor Scott Catch, Maikol Escotto Home Run
Song of the Day
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
Good article and info.
Just saw that 538 projects us with 71 wins and Fangraphs with 73 wins. There seems to a consensus that we should be about 10 games better than we were last year. That’s enough of an improvement that I’d be satisfied that we’re going in the right direction, and I just hope that if we don’t achieve this level of success, then there will be some accountability.
I was excited because it seems our starting pitching is in a much better position then this time last year. We should see incremental improvements in Cruz and Hayes. First base has been upgraded. Catcher is maybe upgraded. More talent arriving from the farm system. Would like to think the relief pitching would be better. But then what the front office/managers/coaches did with the outfield in the last week of spring training makes me wonder if management is trying to put the best team out there, and I went from being hopeful to having no idea what to think about this year.
At this moment in time, I feel pretty comfortable betting on the over 66.5 wins that I got in on this morning. The starting point for this team and the available prospects that we hope to make an impact put this team at 70+ in my mind.
Man does that seem like easy money.
Tick tock, tick tock, I’m waiting to hear we’ve extended someone’s clock.
Yeah been waiting for a Reynolds extension all day. Not sure one is happening.
Anyone know what the deadline to finalize the opening roster is?
So glad to realize the baseball season is starting tomorrow… I don’t ever remember starting this early, but I don’t remember a lot these days. Off-topic, in keeping with recent selections I wanted to put out Pittsburgh’s Billie Holiday. Here is the Burgh’s own Dakota Staton from 1957: https://youtu.be/am2oKRJdGwU
“It’s remarkable to think we even have the technology to perceive that difference — 21 rotations over a full minute is equivalent to less than a quarter of a rotation as the average fastball is traveling from the pitcher’s hand to the plate — but these are the types of indicators that are setting off red flags in the league offices. The league-wide increase observed from the opening month to August of last year that prompted the memo in the first place amounted to all of 38 rpm.”
Reminder: you all willfully accept that less than one rotation of the baseball has such a massive impact on quality of play that it’s worthy of a league-wide scandal on par with the steroid era. This makes completely logical sense to you, that less than half a revolution of the baseball is substantially responsible for the quality of play we see in the modern game.
scienceTrevor Bauer said so.
I like the substance check, and not because of spin rate. I think it is a good way to keep the playing field level for all pitchers/teams/fans. Let’s say a pitcher found a substance that did indeed help their pitch break more, then they have gained what to me is an unfair advantage. And then their team would gain an unfair advantage as the secret is shared. Why not just do what you can to make sure the playing field is level from A ball all the way to the majors? why encourage pitchers and teams to experiment with substances?
On the other hand, if it causes Cole to look like shit, I’m a fan of the rule change.
Five years ago Cole?
That trade resulted in Joe Musgrove who did very well for the Pirates who was traded and the Pirates got a return of our MLB Catcher of the 2020’s Endy Rodriguez, our Closer of the 2020’s David Bednar, and prospects CF Hudson Head, still only 22 at AA and LHSP/RP Omar Cruz, still only 24 and possibly in AAA this year.
Cole is one of those images in the rear view mirror getting smaller and smaller!
Oviedo has big K numbers his last two starts with plenty of swing and miss, hopeful that is a sign of things to come! Our staff doesn’t have a ton of swing and miss right now
Here’s how my pre-Spring Training predictions for hitters ended.
Hit 11 of the 13. Missed backup C and 5th OF. I thought it was more likely they’d keep Owings.
But 9 we’re pretty much sure things, so really 2 out of 4, right?
Just Joshun ya!
I’m skeptical that this approach is gonna work, but I’m glad his taking this approach, he has really bad command of his FB and good command of his slider.
You have to wonder why more pitchers with solid secondary stuff don’t pitch backwards more often?
This is literally what nearly the entire league has started doing over the last 8 years or so.
Well, except the Pirates, apparently.
I think that’s a dated take.
Frankie Liriano was throwing majority offspeed way back in the day.
Musgrove and Taillon had already transition to minority-fastball repertoires before being traded.
Brubaker, Keller, and Contreras made the transition last year.
The game is now a constant barrage of breaking balls.
The “Throw your best pitch more often” tactic. It’s so simple it might just work!!
There was an interview many years ago where Lenny Dykstra call pitcher dumb for not doing just that.
Probably the only thing Lenny Dykstra wishes he is remembered for!
If anyone hasn’t listened to The Dollop episode on Dykstra, you need to do yourself a favor and find out just how big a piece of shit that guy is.
Dykstra sued Ron Darling for libel over statements made about Dykstra in a book Darling wrote. The judge’s ruling in the case was the Dykstra was libel proof meaning that even knowingly and intentionally false statements about Dykstra could not damage his reputation any further.
He became one damaged dude.
Which makes him a fine member of the wack pack.