After Tuesday night’s game against the Diamondbacks, Arquimedes Caminero has made ten consecutive appearances without allowing a run, totaling 13.1 innings dating back to July 29th. Caminero came into the game in the top of the 10th and was able to go three strong scoreless innings, only walking one and allowing one hit.

As a whole, the relief staff of the Pirates has been phenomenal all year. They went into Wednesday night’s game with a team relief ERA of 2.61 in 372 innings, good for third best in the league behind the Cardinals and Royals. A lot of that was due to success all year from Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, and Jared Hughes. But lately, other relievers have stepped up, and the entire bullpen has been productive.

Arquimedes Caminero may have been the most impressive reliever on the staff of late. The ability to go three innings on Tuesday, a season high for Caminero, along with being a mainstay in getting one strong inning, has been extremely valuable for the Pirates.

There has been a major difference in the pitcher that has been coming in relief over the past three weeks compared to the rest of the season for the Pirates. I broke down part Caminero’s season in ten outing spans, dating back to May 12th. See the chart below to get an idea of how well he has pitched of late.

  5/12 – 6/5 6/7 – 6/30 7/1 – 7/25 7/29 – 8/18
Innings 11.1 9.2 9.1 13.1
ERA 2.38 2.79 8.68 0.00
FIP 2.22 4.87 8.14 1.98
Opponent BA .108 .256 .349 .170
Opponent OPS .362 .745 1.056 .420
GB % 41.7% 31.0% 31.4% 71.9%
K/9 11.12 8.38 7.71 10.13
BB/9 4.76 1.86 4.82 2.70
Fastball Usage 79.6% 68.2% 66.7% 71.4%

 

Looking at what Caminero has done this season, you can see that he pitched well in the Pirates bullpen in May and June before seeming to fall apart in July. From May 12th through June 5th, Caminero held opposing batters to a .108 batting average and .362 OPS. During this time, he used his fastball the majority of the time while on the mound. He was also striking out guys at a 11.12 K/9 clip.

From June 7th through June 30th, Caminero only walked batters at a 1.86 BB/9 rate. Even though he wasn’t walking batters, Caminero saw a large drop in groundballs, and opponents had a .745 OPS against him.

Then came his tumultuous July, where opponents batted .349 against him with a 1.056 OPS. He struck out less, walked more, and had a ERA of 8.68.

During this time, Clint Hurdle commented on Caminero when he was questioned about his spot in the bullpen, saying that his fastball had “been flat” and that “the league has adjusted to him”.

Caminero said that he was in the process of making adjustments during that time in July.

“We have been working on some issues that’s in the past now,” Caminero said last Sunday. “We’ve been working to not go back on the bad habits and continue on the good ones.”

So what exactly has Caminero changed leading up to this great stretch of pitching over the last ten games? He has raised his arm slot up 1-2 inches from where it was earlier in the season to add some deception to his delivery. This change has also given his slider/cutter more horizontal movement and the two-seam fastball more sink action.

With this additional movement, Caminero has been able to pitch to more of a centralized target and allow the ball movement to do all of the work.

“We have been working on staying focused on my target more and executing my pitches,” Caminero said.

The biggest difference that is easy to notice in Caminero of late – a groundball rate of 71.9%, which is double from what he has been averaging most of the season. On Tuesday night, Caminero induced nine groundballs, eight of them for outs and one a single.

Ultimately, Caminero feels that the relief staff is there to pick each other up, no matter what, like he did on Tuesday.

“That’s what we do,” Caminero said. “We pick up each other. When a starter doesn’t go out for a long time, that’s what we are there for. Just like position players when they are taken out of the game, that’s when the bench guys pick them up. That’s what we do.”

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14 COMMENTS

  1. On another, but related, note, holy crap our bullpen is good. And holy crap what a pickup Joe Blanton has been. He’s been so weirdly dominant since coming over, always in control. And he, like our dear Arquimedes, can do it for one inning or several. With Blanton, Caminero, and Hughes, we have three guys in our bullpen who can reliably go two innings.

    Soria’s been good, and Hughes can help out when he’s off with his fireman skill. Watson and Melancon border on automatic. Bastardo’s been inconsistent, but when he’s on (as he has been more often than not lately), he’s solid. Caminero’s recent adjustments have made him untouchable. Blanton is one heck of a weapon in extra innings.

    This is one heck of a bullpen.

  2. Just eye test, it seems his fastball location has been a lot better, and he’s not leaving as many belt-high on the inner half, which is probably where it’s most hittable. Getting it right at the knees or above the hands, it’s an effective pitch. Letting it fall in the natural swing path takes the punch out of it.

    But the bigger thing, I think, has been using the cutter and splitter better. Not more, as the graphic shows, but better. He’s throwing them for strikes early in the count when guys are sitting fastball, and working them just off the edges later for chases. He wasted too many of those beautiful, filthy secondary pitches during his rough stretch, missing by too much to make the hitter worry about them, or using them predictably so guys could sit on the fastball.

  3. Can’t teach 100 MPH. It’s a raw material that someone like Ray can work with. When there were changes to the bullpen by adding Soria and Blanton, it could have been easy to remove Caminero. I am glad the FO made the decision to stick with him.

    • Kerry, on the back flip of your comment, a writer on fangraphs believes that the WC game should be a bullpen game, I don’t know how to feel about that, but is not hard to imagine it working out great for the Pirates

      • I go back and forth on this idea. It certainly makes sense to make it a bullpen game in the sense that you shorten it as much as possible and have a fresh arm. But i’ve seen some suggest throwing your best two SP arms back to back for 3 innings each and then the 7-8-9 arms.

        That feels too far for me. Not sure how the second SP is gonna react production wise to coming out of the pen, burns both arms for game 1 of the next series. Interesting discussion topic though.

      • That’s something that is written every single year. It sounds good in theory, but it ignores that not every pitcher will have their best stuff every night. The more guys you throw out there, the more likely you’ll have someone with an off night. On the flip side, if your starter is going strong through a few innings, you’d be best sticking with him.

  4. His 2 seamer or splitter or whatever it is has been very effective of late. Throw that thing near the knees at 90 mph+ and its deadly in combination with 97 pure heat and his change up.

    • “His 2 seamer or splitter or whatever it is” – That’s how I felt when researching his stats haha. They are all labeled and referenced to differently.

      • Haha, i can imagine. Going to look it up was certainly a chore to try to label it. I’ve heard TV/radio guys call it both, see different sites go with either/both. Almost to the point of just going “that downward motion pitch 90-92” is neat.

  5. Another example of the Pirates being patient with a player with talent, fixing his issues, and reaping the benefit. Fortunately, they didn’t send him out like some on this site were advocating when he had problems.

    • I was one of those. And not without reason. From 6/23-7/25, Caminero was looking like Ernesto Frieri out there. Tim broke Cam’s season into 10 game units, but a 14-game slice from 6/23-7/25 gives you the following:

      ERA: 8.31
      FIP: 9.20
      Opp BA: .344
      Opp OPS: 1.060
      In 71 PA, there were 6 BBs and 4 HBPs, leaving 61 ABs, which resulted in 13 Ks, 14 GBs and 34 FBs, 5 of which left the park. Cam gave up at least one ER in half of those 14 appearances.

      Thankfully, most were not in high leverage situations. You could argue there were only two games where Cam hurt the team as in the others his runs had no real impact and in fact, he even got a win in one atrocious performance.

      That’s a month-plus of unmitigated suck. Both Grilli and Frieri were gone after five week runs of suck. IMO, the exit door was being held open. Being patient is a virtue when it works. You could argue they were wrong to let Grilli go, although that resulted in Melancon.

      That said, I’m happy Ray and Cam could figure out what was wrong and fix it. And during that same time I was not in favor of releasing Bastardo as many were, as he was more a proven commodity you’d expect to bounce back.

      • I think its also a bit easier to be patient with non closers/8th inning men. As you alluded to, you can move them into non pressure situations while they work things out. I think many relievers have those odd periods where they are off enough to seem not themselves, but closers tend to not want to be removed from that role and thus suck from them gets magnified.

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