August 26, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Erik Bedard (45) throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Pirates' rotation appears to be coming apart down the stretch, and if the Bucs want to reverse course, they might want to consider making some more high-upside moves. It's one thing to start fading, pull out all the stops, and still fail; it's another to start fading and fail anyway with the likes of Erik Bedard, Rod Barajas and Chad Qualls. (Okay, the Pirates finally placed Qualls on the disabled list with a dubious-sounding injury, but what took them so long?) And frankly, the Pirates have been way too conservative in general with their roster decisions and playing time, especially on their pitching staff. They have plenty of interesting pitching in Indianapolis, and they need to use it. The Bucs will be battling the Cardinals, at least, for a playoff spot, and the Cardinals are, objectively, a better team than them. If the Pirates want to keep pace, they ought to try something different.
I liked the Pirates' decision to sign Bedard. Based on his history of pitching well when healthy, he seemed like a good upside play. Unfortunately, that moment has passed, and we're now at the point where even Carlos Gomez is playing him like a fiddle. Bedard got off to a strong start this year, but most of the value he has provided this season came back in April and May. He has allowed nine home runs in his last 10 starts. The Pirates' defense hasn't played well behind Bedard, but I wonder about Bob Walk's repeated suggestions yesterday that that might have something to do with how slowly he works. He also has walked too many batters this year to be that effective, regardless of the weak defense behind him. I wonder if one reason he's flagging is that he often doesn't pitch this many innings in a season, due to his frequent injuries. Regardless, it's been a very long time since he got the job done.
The Bucs should consider replacing him, either with Chris Leroux or Jeff Locke. Leroux has a very good fastball (though I haven't seen him pitch this year) and is currently getting it done in the Indianapolis rotation. I'm not a huge fan of Locke's, in that I don't think he has much upside either, but his strong stats and improved command this year suggest that he might be ready to help in the Pirates' rotation. Leroux or Locke over Bedard. Michael McKenry over Barajas. Anyone over Chad Qualls. These are the sorts of semi-bold decisions a smart contending team needs to make. But, for some reason, the Pirates aren't making them.