Some Pirates starting pitchers have gotten off to a decent ERA start, but can they keep it up? I'll take a look at some cases, and see if these pitchers are, in fact, headed for a rebound season.
Paul Maholm has gotten off to a good ERA start, at 2.19 after two outings. However, he has hardly looked great in the past two turns. Today against the Rockies, he was not sharp, struggling with command of his three main pitches. Worse, his fastball was sitting in the 86-88 MPH range. In the second game of the season against the Cubs, his fastball averaged 87.1 MPH, according to Fangraphs. His curveball is bigger and loopier than ever, checking in at 72 MPH vs. the Cubs.
Despite the current ERA, Paul hasn't yet been the same pitcher as he was two years ago. In 2009, his heat averaged 89.4 MPH, and he was able to mix in an effective curve at 74.6. Now, he can't even sniff 90, and the command has gone back from 2009 to now.
Can he rebound with a lot of season left? Sure. But the early returns aren't pretty, and certainly not at the 2.19 level. In the home opener, he got away with the act for 5 innings, before the opposing team dug in for batting practice in the sixth. Lady Luck has been on his side in 2011, but the luck won't last unless he can harness what made him successful in 2009.
Kevin Correia is 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA. But is this smoke and mirrors as well? If he keeps pitching the way he has, I think the bats will catch up. The first thing I noticed this year is that Correia was working around 86-89 on Opening Day. When the Pirates acquired him, I figured we would get some more zip than the average Bucs starter.
In the past two games, Correia's fastball has averaged 88 MPH. The cutter has been about 87, but this still isn't where he had previous success back in 2009 with the Padres. With the Padres, Correia had 91 MPH heat, and he established it over 50 percent of the time. This year, he has barely even touched that. I think less velocity would make him more of a Jeff Karstens or Daniel McCutchen type in the long term.
Again, Correia will have time to loosen up. But, in my opinion, a lot of the key of him recapturing his form is in the stuff. You can say he's a pitch to contact guy, so it doesn't matter where his velocity is. But 88-89 still makes a difference compared to the low 90s.
Correia and Maholm could be back to 2009 form starting next week. But through their first two starts, I don't think either of them have been terribly impressive.
The only Pirates starting pitcher to make a real impression is Charlie Morton with his electric sinker. If Morton keeps doing what he's doing, he'll probably have a good year. If Maholm and Correia keep it up, I think they'll run into some trouble as hitters catch up with the slow stuff.
I went to the Pirates home opener today, and Maholm's pitching was not the highlight. Neither was the offense, nor the defense. What I did like to see was the tribute to Chuck Tanner before the game. I thought that was very well done.
From the concessions, I picked up a Pulled Pork Pierogi Sandwich. That had, of course, pork and pierogis (ravioli-type pastas filled with potatoes, just in case you didn't know), with onion relish, on a pretzel bun.
I thought that was good in both size and taste for ballpark food, and filled me up through the entire game. Good high-calorie treat.