Welcome to “The Three Pack”, a weekly feature in which I’ll give you three quick thoughts on anything and everything related to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Today’s three pack aims to introduce you to a reliever new to the Pittsburgh Pirates’ big league club in Geoff Hartlieb.
The 6’6” Hartlieb’s fastball jumps out at you.
It was graded as a 70 on the 20-80 scale by MLB Pipeline, though that grade was not arrived at by traditional metrics alone. Sure, he has the requisite mid-to-high 90s velocity relievers crave, but his arm slot coupled with his delivery gives it more life than it should.
The pitch simply comes up on hitters in a surprising fashion, giving them a bit less time to react. Check out this view from the hitter’s vantage point:
Here we see a huge hump from recognition point (yellow) to commit point (purple). This tells us that Hartlieb’s fastball is seen well enough out of hand, but the arm slot delays commitment.
To see this in action, check out this video from 2080 Baseball:
Having a sturdy fastball can often be enough for relievers to stick, provided they can maintain reasonable control over it. Having that fastball with a twist can push you towards a steady role in most MLB bullpens. Hartlieb is already halfway there.
Movement to boot
Hartlieb complements his fastball with a slider with plenty of bite. Topping out at 88 mph, Hartlieb’s slider has movement anywhere up to 8 inches of horizontal break and 2-3 inches of vertical break. Sample size is small, of course, but he has thrown the pitch effectively in the minors.
Let’s see that in action:
#Pirates reliever @itsgeoffnotjeff with a nasty 98 mph (!) slider in his MLB debut. Nasty! pic.twitter.com/RnZwXR9t79— Jason Rollison (@jrollisonpgh) May 20, 2019
EDIT: after further review, this was probably a sinker. Pitch recognition systems must have been taking an off-day in his debut.
Hartlieb only re-dedicating himself to baseball in his Sophomore year of college, having played basketball during his first foray into the NCAA. There may still be development ahead for him, which should shine through by way of increased control.
And, well, he needs it. If we limit our look to his performance at the Double and Triple-A levels, where hitters are far more advanced than below, he carried a 10.9 percent walk rate. It’s fair to assume that he might have a higher ceiling than many realize.