Pirates’ Bullpen Ranked Near the Top of the National League

Yesterday, Buster Olney posted his top ten rotations in the majors, ranking the Pirates seventh overall. He moved on to the bullpens today and the Pirates again ranked in the top ten, though this list turned out very different than yesterday’s group.

Just like yesterday, there is both good and bad with the rankings. Olney has the Pirates rated eighth overall(subscription required), mostly due to the trio of Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes. He also likes the signing of Neftali Feliz, noting the Pirates’ ability to identify bullpen weaknesses and address them.

One other good thing about the bullpen list is the fact that he ranks the Pirates as the third best team in the National League. Yesterday’s list was one team away from being all NL teams in the top nine. For the bullpens, six of the top nine teams are from the American League.

So you can then gather from that split that the Pirates must be considered one of the best overall pitching staffs in baseball, since there are so many different teams on the two lists.

That brings us to the bad. Both the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Pirates on the bullpen list, just like they were on the rotation list. So while the Pirates rank as one of the best pitching staffs in baseball from top to bottom, it is clear to Buster Olney that they rank third in their own division.

Going with a combined list, only the Indians and Red Sox would be considered on par with any of the three NL Central teams. The Indians were near the top for rotations and just missed the top ten for bullpen, while the Red Sox were near the top for bullpens and just missed for rotations.

  • Honestly much of the Cubs staff is related with how good Arrieta was last year, without him, the staff would be mediocre at best.

    If he can duplicate what he’s done, then they will have a very good rotation. I dont think he’s a fluke, he’s gotten progressively better the last 2-3 seasons with the Cubs, that said, there’s a definite possibility for some regression merely based on the fact that his changed mechanics may not be physically sustainable over the long term. He’ll be 30 before the season starts. Which isnt old, but its not young either.

    Many, many great pitchers have lost it, have had “dead arm”, lost their mechanics, whatever the case may be. Look at Liriano, not same case, but theres an example of guy who was great, lost it and after some bad years with the help of some good coaching, he found it again.

    I guess in short what I’m saying is, great pitching is never a guarantee and its difficult to find consistency even with the best of them. I think Arrieta will be good again this year but I dont predict it will be Cy Young worthy. I’m taking the over on most Arrieta projections for this season…maybe around a low 3 era, which is very good, but beatable nevertheless.

    • Mediocre at best?

      A 5-win #2 backed by a two 3-win guys and a 2-win 5th starter, with a 2-win swing man is mediocre?

      • I’m not sure who entirely youre referencing…

        Lester had a 2.9 WAR as on paper their #1 (even though by year end he was their #2 statistically)

        Both Hammel and Hendricks were worth 1.7 each.

        Obviously Lackey had a great year, but given his age, its far from a guarantee that gets repeated.

        Arrieta was worth 8.6 WAR.

        In respect to the Pirates:

        Cole was worth 4.5

        Liriano was worth 2.8

        Burnett and Happ both worth roughly 2.5 each

        Locke was negative WAR

        Obviously, Huntington hasnt replaced Burnett or Locke entirely to this point, so from a Pirates perspective theres concern, but from my perspective in relation to the Cubs, I think on paper they could have an outstanding rotation, maybe best in baseball, but in reality that may not come to pass. Alot of it is riding on Arrieta…I’m not sold on Hammel or Hendricks being anything more than they are. Hammel had 1 great year but otherwise is Jon Niese or Charlie Morton. He’s a #4/#5 on a good team. Hendricks, same thing.

        I dont see Lackey being any better than he was a year ago. Lester will be Lester…somewhere between 3-3.5 ERA. Solid #2. No much better than Liriano though in my opinion, their numbers will be comparable.

        So again, at least in my view, all of it is riding on Arrieta, if he’s close to being as good as last year, Cubs pitching will be really good, if not they’ll be above average (mediocre at best was probably an extreme position), but I dont think it will heads and shoulders better than the Pirates if Arrieta comes back to earth.

        • I’m not a Cubs fanboy for sure but you have a good chance of seeing Adam Warren in the 4 or 5 spot in that rotation before the season goes too far.

  • Per rotoworld, Nicasio to be stretched out in spring training.

  • Just 1 opinion…he even predicated Bucs would win WS last year I think.
    These Olney ranking mean nothing as to how season will play out.

    • While that is true, Jeff, this bullpen would look a whole let better with a second reliable lefty, such as Bastardo. Even a situational lefty would make me feel better.

    • They could have made it a lot further then they did if they had a first-basemen.

  • I like some of the additions they’ve made here. I’m sure Searage and crew will turn one of the new additions into a nice late inning option. But it would be nice to see Cameniro make more progress and Holdzkom make his way back.

    • I think it’ll likely come down to how many of these high-variance arms can handle multi-inning roles – this rotation is going to pile innings on the pen like none since the dark years – but I agree that I like the reachable upside they’ve targeted in their additions.

      Still really wish Webster would’ve stayed on, though.

      • That’s true. Lot of horsepower,but a Mack Truck would be nice.

      • That’s what i was going to say- looking at the players we’ve added to our bullpen, these are not multi-inning pitchers. Nicasio amounts to a long reliever and we have nothing else quite honestly…..where are these innings coming from, last time i checked the roster is 25 not 30. This WILL NOT WORK! Sign Latos or Fister immediately and be done with this garbage.

  • Michael Helgert
    January 12, 2016 12:12 pm

    The cubs? Really? Their bullpen is nothing special AT ALL

  • The Cubs? Cardinals? What am I missing here?

    • Seriously, they have talent but literally no one in the game has been a more valuable duo than watson and melancon…they must really have a thing for Trevor Rosenthal…and the cubs? I can’t even find an argument for that one…

      • Clayton Richard for the win

      • Agreed. And, it’s not just the pitchers, but also how the manager uses them. I’ll take Hurdle’s and Searage’s staff management over anyone else’s in the game. You can’t throw Watson and Melancon out there every day if you want them to be ready in September. There will be times when the Bucs will need a hold or a save and the top guys aren’t available, and that is when team management is just as important as talent.

      • Doesn’t make sense, the duo of Melancon and Watson is tops in the league, add the other pieces like Caminero and I’m unable to place the Cubs pen anywhere near ours. ESPN hype machine in full mode.

        • Just because *you* don’t pay attention enough to know that the Cubs return the top bullpen in the league by WAR and FIP doesn’t mean their ranking is ESPN hype-induced…

          • I think your minions set you up with these responses- Or I am suspecting that you have more than one account. I, though will not open up an investigation because your baseball knowledge is very very good.

          • Strange… bbref puts their RP about in the middle of the pack, but fangraphs has them at the top of the NL.

          • Fip I can possibly see (I think bbref had then middle pack though), but WAR? I would think a high WAR from your bullpen would be indicative of them having to thow a shart load of innings..

  • Oh hell, they might as well not even bother playing out the season, both the Cards and Cubs are ranked ahead of the Pirates. Woe is us.