First Pitch: Thoughts on the Bullpen, Mercer, Taillon, Cole, and the Reds
Thursday is podcast recording day, which means I spent most of my time today writing articles for the site, recording tomorrow’s show, and editing that show. Therefore, rather than a formal article, we’re going to do a Thursday thoughts article again.
**Put me down as someone who isn’t concerned with the bullpen usage. If we’re talking about the middle relievers, there’s plenty of depth in Indianapolis. That depth probably doesn’t include Vic Black (DL) or Duke Welker (struggling) right now, but it does include guys who are having success like Ryan Reid and Jared Hughes.
If we’re talking about Jason Grilli or Mark Melancon, that’s a bit of a different story. Right now Melancon is on pace for 84 innings, while Grilli is on pace for 74 innings. It’s good that they’re being used so much, because that means the Pirates are winning. You’d also like to see their usage go down, at least to the 60-70 inning range. But if one of those guys goes down, the Pirates have other options who could step up, like Bryan Morris or Justin Wilson.
Ideally you’d like to have all four relievers in your bullpen at the same time. There are a few solutions to this problem.
1. Start winning by more than one run. The pitching has kept the team in the game long enough for the offense to take a lead. If the offense gets a few bigger leads, there will be no reason to turn to Melancon or Grilli.
2. No need for Melancon/Grilli during easy saves. The Pirates need to abandon the idea that they have to play to the save stat. A few weeks ago Grilli came on to get the final out when the Pirates were up by five and the tying run was on deck. That technically qualifies as a save opportunity, but do you need Grilli for that? Do you need Melancon pitching when there’s a six run lead? The answer is no. And I’d even say that you don’t need Melancon when there’s a three run lead in the eighth inning. You could even give Grilli a night off on those occasions too. Give a few of those outings to Morris, Wilson, or Tony Watson.
3. Losing. Yeah, the Pirates shouldn’t try to lose. But they’re going to lose. There will be a few stretches where they don’t win, and Grilli and Melancon won’t be used as much. When that happens, those projected innings counts will go down. And if it doesn’t happen? Then the Pirates would be on pace for an incredible record. It will happen. It’s baseball. Every team goes on losing streaks. You just want to make sure there are more winning streaks.
**Today was the second game in a row that Jordy Mercer started at shortstop, the third in the last five games, and the sixth in the 15 games that Mercer has been back. Is Mercer starting to take more and more playing time away from Clint Barmes? You be the judge:
— James Santelli (@JamesSantelli) May 30, 2013
**Based on the stats you’d probably be more comfortable with Jameson Taillon than Gerrit Cole. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports had two interesting tweets today.
One scout on Jameson Taillon: "Plenty of talent, but not as close as I thought he might be. Up to 98-99, but straight at times."
— Danny Knobler (@DannyKnoblerCBS) May 30, 2013
Same scout on Gerrit Cole: "He could go up at any time. He's one of best I've seen this year."
— Danny Knobler (@DannyKnoblerCBS) May 30, 2013
The comment on Cole wasn’t just the scout Knobler talked to. David Todd of 970 ESPN talked to Jim Callis of Baseball America and got a good report.
From @jimcallisBA: Gerrit Cole's stuff is about as good as Strasburg's stuff, but he doesn't command it as well.""Best stuff in the minors."
— David Todd (@DTonPirates) May 30, 2013
Cole still has the stuff to eventually be that number one starter. He’s been dealing with command issues this year, and hasn’t been dominating. It would be great if he suddenly flipped a switch and became the Gerrit Cole people hoped for at the start of the year. That addition to the rotation would be better than any trade the Pirates could make for the rotation.
**As I’ve mentioned the last two days, the podcast will have some changes starting this week. Each week the podcast has been about 70 minutes, and has included minor league and major league talk. Starting this week we’ll be running two smaller shows per week. We will still have an episode each Friday, talking about the major league team. This show will consist of the segment with myself, Tom Bragg, and James Santelli. We will also have a second episode each week talking about the minor leagues. That will include input from our minor league writers, as well as draft and international signing discussions. Each episode will be about 30-35 minutes on average. So it will be the same content each week, just broken up throughout the week to make things easier for everyone. You don’t have to carve a little over an hour of time out of your day. I don’t have to spend an entire day editing one long podcast (instead editing over part of several days, which I think will be better).
**The big weekend series this weekend will be the Yankees and Red Sox…naturally. But the best weekend series will be the Pirates and Reds. The Yankees and Red Sox are at the top of the AL East right now, but the Pirates and Reds are at the top of baseball, with the second and third best records. The last time the two teams played, the Pirates swept the Reds in a three game series. It would be huge if that happened again.
Links and Notes
**The DraftStreet freeroll is back! One Day FREE Fantasy Contest – $300 in cash prizes. The contest is tonight, so join today!
****The next Pirates Prospects Podcast episode will be available tomorrow. Here is last week’s show: P3 Episode 5: Polanco the Top Prospect? Can Pirates Keep Winning? Mark Melancon Interview.