Huntington on Pitcher Workloads, Playoff Races, and More Call-Ups

PITTSBURGH — With all of the recent discussion about the current Pirates’ rotation, Neal Huntington addressed with the media how the organization has approached all of the factors in determining pitchers’ workload.

Although he wouldn’t expand completely on all of the Pirates’ methods for evaluation, Huntington said that the organization is “trying to use science to refine our art.”

“You can look at a six-inning, 100-pitch outing then look at another six-inning, 100-pitch outing, and they could be completely different in terms of the stress levels and intensity,” Huntington said. “There are a huge number of variables that we factor in as we are working to identify when we should begin to limit where our young pitchers are going.”

In the Pirates case, Gerrit Cole recently skipped a turn through the rotation, and manager Clint Hurdle said earlier today that there may be discussion on giving Francisco Liriano some extra rest, as well. Huntington said that Cole’s “innings level is beginning to get to a point where it is discussed a lot, but we’re aware of a lot of different factors with Gerrit”.

As for Liriano, he is approaching a level of innings pitched that he hasn’t reached since 2010. In his last start (before Sunday’s short outing), he surpassed his innings total from 2013 and 2014 (161 IP and 162.1 IP, respectively). After today’s outing where he was chased after 2 1/3 innings, Liriano has thrown 167 innings this season.

“He’s as strong as you can be at this point in time,” Huntington said about Liriano before today’s game, “and he’s adamant that he’s willing to go deep into the postseason.”

Otherwise, the Pirates have managed the work of their pitches extremely well this season. Huntington praised the coaching staff for managing the bullpen’s work through the season, noting that no reliever has pitched four days in a row, pitched five out of six days, or has thrown 30 or more pitches and come back the next day.

“We put together a number of variables that go into workload measurement and fatigue.”

Paying Close Attention to the Cardinals and Cubs

Huntington and Hurdle both made comments today about watching how this pennant race is unfolding. Hurdle spoke before the game about the buzz around town concerning the three team race in the Central Division.

Neal Huntington said that they are watching the Cubs and the Cardinals with concern of how the rotation will be laid out in the future.

“We’ll see where this rotation takes us,” Huntington said. “Are we are able to run the Cardinals down or are they able to hold us off? Are we able to stay well ahead of the Cubs? We’ve got some TBDs based on where we are in relationship to the Cardinals and where we are in relationship to the Cubs.”

Huntington also noted the four game series in Colorado as a factor in setting up the rotation and pitching staff, saying that the altitude and Colorado’s offense can take its toll.

“We may make some adjustments coming out of there, but we have six starters that we feel really good about right now. It’s a good spot to be in.”

Call-ups from Indianapolis Probable for Tuesday’s Doubleheader

The Pirates will most likely promote one or two players from Indianapolis before Tuesday’s doubleheader with the Cubs.

“It’s 18 innings to cover, and it’s a bullpen that’s had to cover some innings here recently despite the numbers in the bullpen.”

Huntington cited the meaningfulness of the Cubs series as a reason to make sure they have enough bodies in the clubhouse.

“It’s not just the 18 innings on Tuesday, you’ve still gotta cover nine innings on Wednesday, and every one of those innings is probably going to be meaningful. We’re at a point in the year where a rested club is as important as a good club, and sometimes a rested club is better than a non-rested good club.”

  • Pirates starting pitching isn’t strong enough to win a World Series. I wish it was
    Liriano – too many first inning. Runs NOPE
    Cole NOPE
    Morton DOUBLE NOPE (most inconsistent)
    LOCKE DOUBLE NOPE (serves up too many meatballs)
    BURNETT NOPE -‘too bad
    Happ – about the only one that has been consistent and not enough to hang one’s hat on.

    • Clearly you didn’t watch the SF Giants last year who won a WS with Mad Bum and then guys like Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum behind him. That to go along with an offense that wasn’t that great either. I doubt you can really discount the Pirates and their staff. Especially since they have one of the better offenses that will be in the playoffs.

  • I hadn’t realized that Liriano is on pace for his 2nd most innings pitched in a season.

    I don’t think anything is wrong with Liriano, he has a unique skill set, and consistency isn’t one of them but his issue seems to be he is missing up, of late. Hence the hits and loud outs.

    • I’ve been trying to find some pattern behind Frankie’s good appearances and bad appearances. It does appear he uses his slider more in the good ones, but that may be a by-product of his ability to locate his FB.

      But there is one thing that even a casual fan can instantly notice – his follow throughs are all over the place. He has about as many follow throughs as Cueto has windups. I’m wondering if an emphasis on a consistent landing spot/ending position would lead to more consistency.

  • I wonder if Brault eventually replaces Tony Watson, who has become one of the best LH relievers in the MLs. The situation points to that result.