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|
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.”