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Improved pitching in the offing for Pirates?

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Cincinnati Reds v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This seemed worth more than a comment, so I’m posting a thread about it.

FanGraphs had a promising comment about Jameson Taillon. It came in an article about the ten biggest swinging strike rate gainers of 2018, a list on which Taillon placed tenth:

Jameson Taillon, Pirates | 2.5% to 11%: A new slider not only aided a career-best 23% K rate, but also has me excited for a potentially elite season from the 27-year old righty. From late-May on, he threw it 25% of the time and had a 5.6 pitch value with it. The slider really became a go-to pitch for him and finally gives him a pair of reliable secondary offerings to go with his mid-90s heat.

But there’s more. Pirates Prospects has an interview with Joe Musgrove that’s worth the price of admission. Musgrove discusses the Astros’ approach to pitch selection, which is basically throw your best pitch a lot. That’s decidedly different from the Pirates’ approach up until, probably not coincidentally, almost exactly when Musgrove joined the rotation in late May. The sharp drop in Taillon’s fastball usage began literally two days after Musgrove’s first start. With the Pirates being latecomers to the better understanding around baseball of effective pitch selection, we can hope that we’ll see them make up some lost ground in the immediate future.

There was also a more equivocal, but still somewhat hopeful, comment from a Dan Szymborski chat. FanGraphs is down right now so I can’t quote or link to it, but he did say he thought Chris Archer has some upside still.