Bail Us Out!
The Pirates bullpen currently has the 8th best ERA in baseball but they are 16th in FIP so it should be rather apparent that though they have had a decent start it has been quite a lucky one. I thought I would have some fun and rank the relievers in the order in which I have confidence in them right now. You can feel free to disagree but this is just my current feeling on the matter.
1. Tony Watson : He has been incredible this season and it is simply an extension of last year. When he enters the game I have the feeling there is no way the other team is going to score.
2. Mark Melancon: Melancon had one of the best relief pitcher seasons I remember last year and so far this year he has continued to be very good. What keeps Melancon below Watson is that he did have a hiccup or two near the end of last year and he doesn’t seem to have the swing and miss stuff like Watson does.
3. Bryan Morris: I had no confidence in Morris last year but over the offseason he seems to have reinvented himself. His velocity is noticeably up and his command so far has been improved.
4. Jason Grilli: The common thoughts about Grilli are that he hasn’t been the same since the injury and that his velocity hasn’t returned. There may be some merit to the first part but on the later Brooks Baseball doesn’t see much of a change. Aside from when he first returned last year Grilli’s fastball has consistently averaged between 94 and 95 mph while he has been with the Pirates and that’s right in line with where he is this year. Still Grilli has seemed a little off but I still believe he is good late inning reliever (though his days as a great one may be behind him) and will bounce back from his recent blown saves.
5. Justin Wilson: Wilson’s numbers so far have looked fairly good (aside from his control) but there is just something about him that is scaring me whenever he comes out to pitch. I can’t put my finger on it but something just seems off about him. One thing is he just isn’t getting the swings and misses like he did last year. He is still a quality second lefty for the pen but he really needs to get back to missing some bats before I start to consider him more than that.
6. Stolmy Pimentel: I was really looking forward to having Pimentel in the bullpen as I felt he over Morris would emerge as a late inning option. So far despite decent numbers I haven’t been impressed and in fact I’ve been quite concerned. The velocity he showed while up with the team in September last year just isn’t there and without that I don’t think he is good enough to remain an effective major league pitcher. It is just speculation on my part but I’m concerned there might be an injury here.
7. Jeanmar Gomez: Gomez has just looked awful so far and compounding that is the fact that prior to last season he was an awful pitcher. To truly be effective he needs to be inducing a lot of ground balls and in the early going here he is simply not doing that. Right now I truly think he is little more than a mop up option and the Pirates should consider replacing him if he doesn’t get it straightened out quickly.
I’m not going to condone and quick shake ups in the bullpen but I think it’s rather apparent the Pirates have been weak in this area to begin the season. I have confidence in Grilli settling down and becoming a solid pitcher though his days as the best arm in the pen are probably over. I would be ok with a change at the closer position but I’m also fine with letting Grilli have some rope as I think he’ll be a perfectly adequate option in the long run. I have some confidence in Wilson’s ability to start missing bats again but I wouldn’t be against sending him down to AAA to try and let him straighten it out down there. I think Adam Wilk could be a decent second lefty in the interim. Pimentel I’m fine with if the velocity returns otherwise the Pirates really need to take a close look at him. As for Gomez I honestly expect him to be off the roster within a month or two.