Lack of production from relievers causing concern
The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot to be thankful for these days. They have an overabundance of good, young defensive and offensive players. However, not all of the outfielders are stellar in the batter’s box but overall, they are pretty steady.
The Bucs also have an above-average defensive infield that isn’t afraid to bring some lumber and they have the ability as well to mount offensive comebacks on occasion. Pittsburgh’s starting rotation is an arm or two short of being “dependable” but there is promise there as well. As of this past Sunday, the collective ERA of the Pirates pitching was 4.15. To compare, the ERA of the woeful Miami Marlins was 5.05. Whew! Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon with Marilyn McCoo waiting for one of these guys to take the mound? We might be crying in our beer in Pittsburgh but the Marlins’ faithful is sobbing in their margaritas anticipating the game-by-game performances of a pitching corps is statistically dead last in the NL. But hey, Pirates fans should remain focused on the Bucs and shouldn’t be concerned about any other MLB team’s win-loss record and hope the Pirates continue raising the “Jolly Roger” before the All-Star break.
Now this is where it gets a little bit crappy. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is known as a great baseball mind. He can strategically compete with the best of them. However, Hurdle can strategize and make moves through an entire game but he cannot throw strikes for his relief pitchers. He cannot be faulted because the repertoire of his relievers is not varied enough to hold leads or are unsuccessful in keeping opposing hitters off balance in order to prevent timely comebacks. Almost all team sports generally have first, second and third-tier players that are used in conjunction with the “first teamers.” All athletes can’t be starters. That’s why you have three lines in hockey, third down and fourth down defensive and offensive specialists in professional football…and relief pitchers.
A significant percentage of baseball relievers are former starting pitchers that may or may not have had the pitch selection to keep batters off balance for five, six, or seven innings. When they are shown to be ineffective in prominent starting pitching roles, many of them find a home in the bullpen usually as short, mid, or long relievers. Also, relief pitchers may not have the stamina to go six or seven innings. Most MLB teams fear a reliever entering into a tight game with a fresh arm and a one or two pitch selection that he uses craftily and effectively. Here is an example. There were no teams chomping at the bit to face former NY Yankees legendary relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. Rivera, who rarely pitched over two innings in a game, had a win-loss record of 82-60, along with 652 saves, an E.R.A of 2.21 and had 1,173 strikeouts. Rivera is likely a once in a lifetime talent but relief pitchers must always live up, embrace and enjoy the stress of the moment. They are the firemen that you see after the flames are blazing. They are the firemen that rescue the firemen.
The way that the Pirates relievers have performed recently, sometimes it appears that they may be attempting to quell a volcano with a garden hose.
Speaking about relief pitchers. Bruce Eugene Kison (Feb. 18, 1950–June 2, 2018) was an outstanding relief pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1971–79. He won two World Series rings as a Pirate. He was a genuine part of the Pittsburgh Pirates “family.” He will be missed.
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