A Quick Look At The Starters

Last season I wrote a two-part piece after the Pirates first four games, when they started out 3-1. The focus of much of it was Clint Hurdle as he was guiding the Pirates ship for the first time. Then I looked at the starting pitching. Last year the starters were a huge question mark. Here is how they opened the season. And, yes, Kevin Correia was the Opening Day starter. I forgot as well.

NAME IP H R ER BB K Pitches/Strikes/Swinging Strikes
Kevin Correia 6 7 3 2 1 3 92-61-6
Paul Maholm 6.2 5 0 0 2 3 92-63-8
Ross Ohlendorf 6 8 4 4 4 3 96-64-13
Charlie Morton 6 3 1 1 5 2 97-57-3

All four starters were able to go at least six innings and do so in fewer than 100 pitches. As a group, they gave up eight extra base hits and one home run (four of the extra-base hits and one of the homers were by Ohlendorf).

It's hard to evaluate the starting pitching when a team has only played four games, but with a bullpen that should be a strength, Meek's early struggles notwithstanding, if the Pirates continue to get this kind of starting pitching they will sail by my optimistic win projection of 75 and possibly approach .500. While I still view this as a big longshot, if you're a fan, there is a little bit of a reason to get excited.

The starting pitching is less of a question mark this year. Here is how things went through the first four.

NAME IP H R ER BB K Pitches/Strikes/Swinging Strikes
Erik Bedard 7 6 1 1 1 4 81-58-7
Jeff Karstens 6 5 1 1 1 2 85-54-5
James McDonald 6 4 2 2 2 3 82-51-3
Kevin Correia 6 4 1 1 2 3 81-52-5

I literally went back twice to make sure I had changed games and was copying the correct pitching line. All four, just like last year, are essentially identical. As a group, they gave up three extra base hits and one home run, which is fantastic. (Hunter Pence had a double and HR off of McDonald.)

The first thing that jumps out is while the four pitchers last year threw 92-97 pitches, this year they threw 81-85. There are a lot of guys around the league throwing 90+ pitches so far this year, but you have to wonder if the breakdown of basically the entire starting rotation last year has Hurdle cautious here early in the season. The other thing is (the lack of) swing-and-miss stuff. Really, JMac is the only guy who really has big strikeout potential, but with Burnett and Bedard, the Pirates should get more than they got last year.

Charlie wrote an article early last season where he noted the team's lack of strikeouts might later be telling. The numbers for the staff last year around this time were:

ERA 2.60
FIP 3.55
xFIP 5.03

This year (including last night's game) the numbers for the starters and then complete staff are:

ERA 2.10--2.05
FIP 2.93--2.73
xFIP 3.83--3.36

A pretty significant difference in xFIP. Through five games maybe it's all meaningless. But after just a few games last year we got a decent read about what was to come. We'll see what happens.

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