clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Is "Balance" a Problem with the Pirates' Rotation?

New, 4 comments

I've written about this before, but I still feel compelled to disagree with this article by Gene "Lou" Collier.

The Pirates don't win third games of series, at least not very often, and it's because of their starting pitching. Though their young starters are still considered the most promising component of a franchise awash in empty promises, there is a debilitating sameness about them that threatens to impede their individual development and the potential for winning baseball to blossom on this part of the map anytime soon.

In Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny, today's starter, the Pirates have three talented left-handers who just happen to be too similar...

If you have to blow up another part of this "development" to strengthen this "strength," it might well be worth it.

Collier's thesis is that because Duke, Maholm, and Gorzelanny are so similar (and never mind the fact that Gorzelanny throws much harder than either of the other two, I guess), opposing batters settle in against them, cauing the Pirates to lose games later in series.

There's one problem with this line of thinking: there's absolutely no evidence to support it. The Pirates have played 55 games in the third or fourth games of series this year. Here's what happened in games in those situations in which they allowed more than three runs.

April 8 - Oliver Perez started.
April 12 - Maholm allowed five runs.
April 13 - Perez started.
April 16 - Ian Snell started.
April 19 - Victor Santos started.
April 23 - Maholm allowed five runs.
April 26 - Quality start by Zach Duke.
April 30 - Perez started.

May 7 - Duke allowed five runs.
May 14 - Snell started.
May 18 - Santos started.
May 24 - Duke allowed five runs.
May 28 - Perez started.

June 7 - Perez started (is anyone sensing a pattern here?).
June 11 - Quality start by Maholm.
June 15 - Santos started.
June 18 - Perez started.
June 22 - Maholm started and was awful, but this was the horrible series against Kansas City, so it's not like his terrible pitching was unexpected or unique.
June 25 - Kip Wells started.
June 29 - Duke allowed four runs.

July 2 - Snell started.
July 5 - Wells started.
July 6 - Gorzelanny allowed five runs.
July 9 - Duke allowed seven runs.
July 16 - Quality start by Maholm; huge bullpen blowup.
July 19 - Duke allowed four runs and got the win.
July 22 - Wells started.
July 23 - Quality start by Gorzelanny; bullpen blowup.
July 26 - Maholm allowed four runs in seven innings and got the win.

August 6 - Snell started.
August 10 - Quality start by Gorzelanny; bullpen blowup.
August 16 - Quality start by Duke; bullpen blowup.
August 20 - Santos started.
August 23 - Snell started.
August 26 - Duke allowed seven runs.
August 27 - B.P. Chacon started.
August 30 - Santos started.

September 3 - Snell started.
September 6 - Great start by Duke; huge bullpen blowup.
September 7 - B.P. started.
September 10 - Shane Youman started.
September 21 - Youman started.

Collier indicates that it's a problem that the Pirates have three pitchers who are two similar to each other. However, the Pirates have only had just eleven games all year in which those pitchers have started at the ends of series and allowed more than three runs. Given that Maholm and Duke were not very good throughout most of the year in general, that's not any worse than expected. Maholm and Duke also pitched in five games at the end of series in which the Pirates allowed three runs or fewer (and therefore not included in the list above), including three in which the starter didn't allow any runs at all. In third or fourth games of series, the three players are throwing about the same percentage of quality starts as they've pitched overall.

If anything, the list above only says what we already know - the Pirates need better pitchers. Their problem is pitchers who are bad, like Perez, Youman, Wells, Santos, and B.P. Those players' styles and handednesses are completely different from one another, so the Pirates' inability to win games at the end of series has nothing to do with their opponents settling in against a particular type of pitcher. The Pirates' pitching has not been good this year, and they limit their options for improvement if they decide that "balance" is their problem.