The Pirates Bullpen Could Dominate in 2017 and Beyond

BRADENTON, Fla. – The 2016 MLB playoffs saw some unique bullpen usage, especially with the Cleveland Indians eschewing traditional bullpen roles, and using their best relievers when they are needed. That approach is something that could theoretically help teams during the regular season, especially in situations where a game is at risk early, and the best reliever is being saved for the ninth inning, when a lead might not still exist. But don’t expect the Pirates to go that route this year.

“There’s more conversation externally out in the public than anywhere,” Clint Hurdle said of whether the playoffs changed some views on bullpen usage. “When you have days off, like you do in the playoffs, it’s a completely different dynamic. You’re running out of games. That hour glass has been flipped over, and you’re talking about outs. You’re counting outs. Opportunity arises, you have the personnel to do it. It’s always something that we’ll revisit.”

The Pirates have the potential for a strong trio in the late innings again this year. Tony Watson is the key to everything, and is coming off a down year. He had a 3.06 ERA and a 4.20 xFIP, with a decline in his walks, ground balls, and a big decline in his home run rate. The latter led to issues all year, which really became noticeable when he took over the closer’s role. Prior to the 2016 season, Watson was one of the best relievers in baseball, and the Pirates could use that version as their closer in 2017.

Behind Watson, the Pirates have acquired a potentially dominant duo of relievers. They added Felipe Rivero in the Mark Melancon trade last year, giving them a power lefty who can hit 100 MPH, and could singlehandedly make that Melancon trade look like a steal for years. Rivero has some amazing strikeout potential, especially with his changeup, and could end up being the best reliever on the team this year. If he cuts down on his walk rate, he could end up one of the best relievers in baseball.

The Pirates also added Daniel Hudson this offseason, giving them a power right-hander to pair with Rivero in the late innings. The combination of Rivero and Hudson behind Watson is similar to what they had last year with Watson and Neftali Feliz behind Melancon, and could lead to a lot of success if the players play to their potential.

Hudson hasn’t seen the best ERA, but his advanced metrics have been promising, and he has the ability to get a lot of strikeouts. The Pirates liked what they saw, and went with a familiar route of taking a reliever and hoping the advanced metrics translate to the field.

“I’ve watched him and we got to see him in short stints,” Hurdle said. “I like the arm, the man, the slow heartbeat, the adaptation, the buy-in. He’s grown into it, the ability to pitch late. High-leverage situations, he embraces. He’s got the stuff and the skill set to do it, the makeup to do it, and he could be a guy that could go hand in hand with [Watson] when he’s not available.”

The trio of Watson, Hudson, and Rivero might be a bit more traditional. One area where a non-traditional role might make sense would be with Juan Nicasio. The Pirates tried Nicasio as a starter last year, but moved him to the bullpen in the second half. His results in the bullpen were outstanding, with a 2.96 ERA, a 2.87 xFIP, a 12.0 K/9, and a 2.96 BB/9. The Pirates didn’t really have a role for him either, using him in extra innings, as a multi-inning guy, or in some high leverage situations. That was a role that he thrived in, and will return to in 2017.

“I like the role we had him in last year. He flourished in it,” Hurdle said. “There were games when he could go late leverage, depending on the use of the other guys. There were days when he came in and stopped the biggest situation of the game in the sixth inning, and then was able to add an inning or another inning to it. It was actually a similar situation in what you saw the two men get used for in the post-season. We had a guy doing it for us, and at the end of the season in his exit interview, that’s what he felt best doing.”

The other three bullpen spots currently project to go to Jared Hughes, Antonio Bastardo, and possibly Wade LeBlanc or Tyler Webb for the final spot. All three spots are up for grabs, but it would be difficult to imagine Hughes and Bastardo not making the team if they’re still on the roster by the start of the season.

The middle of the season could be a different story. The Pirates have plenty of starting pitching depth, and guys like Trevor Williams and Steven Brault could help out in the bullpen if needed. They also have two hard-throwing relievers in Indianapolis with Dovydas Neverauskas and Edgar Santana projected to make the big leagues at some point this year.

Neverauskas has done a good job turning his career around the last few years. He always had the ability to throw hard, hitting 95 MPH when he was 18 years old. He didn’t have much control, and never added that control with his four seam fastball. He switched to a two-seamer in 2015 and started getting that pitch up to the 97-98 MPH range last year in relief, instantly becoming a future MLB reliever.

Hurdle said that Neverauskas stands out with his spin rate, velocity, movement, and that the performances on the field match what the scouts and analytics have seen.

“The guy is getting outs,” Hurdle said. “He’s got the ability for swing and miss. He’s got the ability for weak contact. We challenged him at different levels. He was able to adapt and perform well at those levels. He got in the Future’s Game and loved it.”

When Neverauskas makes the majors, he will be the first player born in Lithuania to make the big leagues, which is a pretty amazing story, especially when you consider he is two years removed from looking like a non-prospect in A-ball.

“He’s poured so much of himself into the organization and in his developmental program,” Hurdle said. “We’re impressed with the young man. He’s got a cause as well. Lithuania. He’s pitching to be the first Major League player. It plays in to the equation for him, to impact a country. To do something that nobody else has done before.”

Another good story is the development of Edgar Santana. Two years ago, he was just making the jump to the United States, after spending one year in the Dominican Republic. He didn’t play baseball until the age of 19, after focusing on college first. He’s now the top relief pitching prospect in the system, with the ability to hit upper-90s with movement, along with a plus slider.

Santana moved quickly through the system, but he hasn’t flown under the radar of Hurdle, who heard about him a lot, especially after Santana’s performance in the Arizona Fall League this offseason.

“What’s really good now about our player development system, if I don’t see somebody personally, I have people call me about our people,” Hurdle said. “They see them in the Fall League, they see them pitch here, in the Future’s Game. Santana had a really nice Fall League, and he got a lot of people’s attention in the Fall League. So then you go and grab the video and watch the stuff. The slider is wipeout, the fastball is firm with life. He’s got a changeup that’s a legitimate third pitch that he hasn’t utilized, and he’s going to be able to utilize in the future.

“He’s a late developer. He wasn’t allowed to play ball until he was 19. And the way he’s grasped the mentality — he speaks good English. The common sense part of it, along with the baseball application part of it is kind of special and unique. He’s a very interesting story as well. He’s a guy that likes pitching late. We’ll see where that can take us. He’s in a good spot.”

Santana and Neverauskas have the stuff to pitch in the late innings one day. This year, they will only be needed to add a bit of a bonus. The Pirates already have three dominant relievers in their late innings, along with a flexible reliever in Nicasio. If Santana or Neverauskas can quickly adjust to the majors and provide a boost to that group, the Pirates could have a bullpen by the end of the year with plenty of options to get creative in the playoffs.

  • Yeah baby!

  • Future Survey Question

    Is our bullpen going to be:
    1) Dominant
    2) Above Average
    3) Average
    4) Below Average
    5) El Stinkeroo

    It’s going to be interesting to see what the “silent” majority think.

    • Average at best. What did the guys in this pen do last year? Only a really rosy scenario gets them to better than average.

    • The silent majority stops reading at the end of the article, and doesn’t care what people are saying in the comments, or realize there are people talking in the comments. So we’re not going to hear from them.

      I’m also done with this discussion. I’m going to work on some more articles for the silent majority, and just agree to disagree with two very vocal people.

      • Lee you are screaming and no one can hear you! LOL The silent majority doesn’t care about clarity and specificity! Quit being so unreasonable. Domination is like the 1964 Supreme Court defining obscenity… We will know it when we see it.

        • Man you are some kind of disrespectful. Why do you even pay to be here if you have such a problem with Tim?

          • Seriously man, step up the reading comprehension and explain to me how telling an author he is ambiguous and vague and asking for clarity is disrespectful.

            I don’t have a problem with Tim. If you have any disagreements regarding the veracity of anything I stated or the logic of any of the points I made I’m more than willing to listen

        • John W…my ONLY disagreement with Tim is the use of the word “Dominant”. I think they’ll be average.

          As Tim states, we will have to agree to disagree, which is cool. I have zero issues with Tim himself.

      • Sounds like a plan.

    • Lee I’ll take number 2 for five dollars.

  • Tim…I really think that the use of the word “dominant” doomed this article.

    Dominant evokes memories of bullpens like the “Nasty Boys” or the Royals. I don’t think that will happen with us. If it does, I’m buying a case of whatever beer you want.

    Now we “Could” be good. But dominant? That “might” happen, but it is highly unlikely.

    • Doomed? I see two people making a big deal about it.

      • I just think it’s funny you don’t see interested in providing the slightest bit of specificity as to what “dominate” or dominant means. Yet you like to point to your past successes and intimate this article will become “true” when I’m still not sure what you mean by it.

        • It takes time to get a projection together. I’m not just throwing out a number. And I don’t have time to do that, especially when we’ll probably just disagree in the end and argue the projection. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree and wait and see what happens.

      • Also curious if you could elaborate on this:” Hudson hasn’t seen the best ERA, but his advanced metrics have been promising”

        What advanced metrics are you referencing? Something beyond his 3.81 FIP and 4.12 Xfip? Or his 13% K-BB%. They were slightly better in 2015 but still not promising in my mind.

        I’m hoping there is something beyond the velocity and advanced metrics they see. I’m actually assuming there is but just not sure exactly what it would be. Do you have any idea at this point or do you think we will get a better grasp on that as camp unfolds.

      • see what happens when you use words like dominate and doomed?
        They are too strong.

        I did that on purpose.

        Had you wrote “The Pirates Bullpen has a Chance to be Good this Year and beyond”, you wouldn’t have heard a peep out of me.

        “Domination” is much too strong of a word.

        • This is my least favorite type of discussion. Arguing over what type of subjective word to use, or the definition of a subjective word.

          Ultimately, we disagree over the quality of the bullpen. Because I think this could be a really good bullpen, and I’m willing to say they could dominate. So we’ll have to just agree to disagree here.

      • Btw, its more than two and that is just here. Other blogs and email have also stated that this was just a tad hyperbolic.

  • Tim – bringing some balance to this discussion from research I did regarding a previous thread. Pirate fans are the worst, most negative crew around. Here’s some supporting data:

    • LOL because yes, asking the author to clarify what he means by dominant is clearly demonstrating negativity.

      • Man you just won’t quit.

        • Seriously man- do you realize how inane the link you cited was in the context of this discussion. I cite specifics regarding Hudson’s peripherals and ask Tim to clarify what dominant means as to the bullpen on a general level and put it into a more specific context. And you respond with a link about negativity.

          FFS, I never even said I thought the bullpen would be bad. I actually think they have a good shot at being above average. I was just hoping to attain some clarity as to what the author meant by saying theycould be dominant.

    • What does being negative have to do with what I wrote?

      I merely said they could just as easily implode. In fact, as I wrote in my note, that “could” be more likely to happen than domination.

      That, imo, is being realistic.

      There’s a difference between being realistic and being Susie Sunshine or Debbie Downer.

      • I was making a generalization. A very accurate one BTW. Bucs “fans” are the worst, and I provided supporting data to show how little respect they have for their own team in comparison to industry experts.

        Usually it’s the other way around with fanbases.

        • Usually it’s the other way around with fanbases.

          Then you haven’t been on many other fan blogs. When you’re bored, check out: Phillies, O’s, Cardinals (yes even them…they’re like Steelr fans…entitled), Yankees, etc. Most fans are like that.

          Btw, just to be clear…I only took exception with Tim’s use of the word “Dominant”. I think they will be average. Too many question marks.

          And, nothing in the article changed my mind.

  • Woot

  • I still think a trade for Mike Morin would help out, he still could be good

    • You may be on to something, but doubt the Angels would give him up. His ERA being a full run more than his FIP is something to keep an eye on this season.

  • Not sure how much it matters but the fact remains the Pirates bullpen was a tirefire in September with Watson and Rivero leading the way. Watson had a FIP over 6 and Rivero had a FIP over 4 and the bullpen as a whole had a FIP of 4.5.

    In September the bullpen had a WPA of -2.5!

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 15, 2017 8:50 pm

    I agree, that the Pirates bullpen has the potential to be very good in 2017, even without Mark Melancon. Of course, the key to the bullpen’s success is the same for most teams – the starting rotation. In the first 2-3 months of last season, the Pirates stubbornly kept Nicasio, Locke, and Niese in the rotation, which resulted in a lot of losses and an overused and overexposed bullpen – which predictably crumbled under the duress. If the Pirates rotation can more consistently keep the team in games and pitch into the 6/7 inning, this bullpen could be very successful.

    Based on his very lofty standards, Watson had a down year. But, I expect him to bounce back in 2017 and be a very respectable closer. Rivero needs to be able to pitch in high leverage situations – if he can do that, he will be quite a weapon as well. Guys like Hudson, Nicasio, and Webb should be solid contributors. The young guys (Santana, Lakind, Neverauskas) are the wild cards. I also expect a guy like Cumpton could end up being a very good bullpen piece. I hope Bastardo gets let go or shipped off somewhere – he’s a walk and HR waiting to happen.

  • And beyond?
    Watson/Nicasio/Bastardo gone next year or at trade deadline.

    • Santana and Neverauskas around for six more years after 2017. Rivero around for 4 more years after 2017. Three relievers who can hit 100 MPH with good breaking stuff.

      • So that must mean they could be awful – not!

        • “Could” means that they “Could” be ANYTHING.

          • They could both be Hall of Famers. They could both be sub replacement pitchers. I’m guessing they settle somewhere in between.

            • Which is why I wrote that they could easily implode.

              I agree with you, in that they will be around the “Average” point.

              • LOL I know that’s what you meant- I was just taking the possibilities to its absurd extremes. Perhaps just me but with baseball I’m not fond of terms like could and might. We all know anything could happen in baseball- but when it comes to analysis I’m looking for slightly more specificity.

              • I mean let’s put it this way. How often could someone appropriately use the term “could not” or “can’t” in baseball? Not too often.

                I mean perhaps the worst bullpen in MLB last year. Could someone actually write “The Reds Bullpen Can’t Dominate in 2017”. If Isglesias improves and Lorenzen takes next step and Cingrani finds the form earlier in his career and Amir Garret is called up to help the pen…

                The way I look at is most teams could have a dominant bullpen if they have key members reaching their 75-80th percentile projection. The ultimate question to me is how likely that is and why.

      • That doesn’t mean that they will be dominant.

  • Tim, you know I love you, but this is the type of article that makes people say that you are overly optimistic about the Bucs and a FO apologist. And, in this case, I would have to agree with them.

    There is literally nothing about our pen that screams out ‘dominance’.

    • This is also the type of article that people forget about when it becomes true.

      I was called a FO apologist for saying Melancon would be better than Hanrahan. I was called a FO apologist for saying J.A. Happ was a potentially brilliant addition. I was called a FO apologist for saying Ivan Nova would be the next Happ. I could continue.

      The people who said that forgot all about when I was right, and moved on to the next chance to call me a FO apologist. I’m done giving a shit about those people. I’m done catering to the segment of Pittsburgh that only sees negative, even when everyone else in the baseball world sees a positive.

      My goal isn’t to be optimistic or pessimistic. It’s to be objective. Objective is neither optimistic or pessimistic. You call this optimistic because it paints a good picture of the bullpen. I call it objective because it matches what people outside of Pittsburgh see about the makeup of this bullpen. I’m not alone in this thinking, and I don’t think it will be long until others see that, and this article is forgotten.

      • “When it becomes true”…

        How can one determine if it is true or false with so much ambiguity. What does “dominate” mean? The best bullpen in MLB? Top 3? Top 5? Or does being above average constitute domination?

        “objective because it matches what people outside of PIttsburgh see about makeup of this bullpen”

        The reality is this bullpen “COULD” dominate but so could many bullpens in MLB- including 2 in our division. The Cubs and Cards both profile to have better bullpens- especially if Rosenthal stays in the pen and isn’t stretched out.

        I asked already- what percentile of a projection does this bullpen have to reach to “dominate”? 50%? 70%, 95%?

        A lot of bullpens in MLB could dominate if they have key members reaching their 70-80th percentile projection.

        You make a comment about people forget about it when it comes true. Using “could” gives you an easy out. If it comes to fruition you can say “hey I said it could happen, I predicted this. If it doesn’t you can just say “I never said it would happen, I said it could”

        I’m not trying to give you a hard time but you said the bullpen “MIGHT” be even better at the end of 2016 without Melancon. And that clearly was not the case. But I’m sure your response will be I never said it WOULD be better, I said it might. “Could” and “might” can apply to just about anything in life. Narrowing down how likely or unlikely something is gives the reader a lot more to go on.

        I couldn’t give 2 shits about the term front office apologist. But unless you can be more specific I don’t think you should be coming back proclaiming you were correct because I still don’t know what “could dominate” means.

        • “You make a comment about people forget about it when it comes true. Using “could” gives you an easy out. If it comes to fruition you can say “hey I said it could happen, I predicted this. If it doesn’t you can just say “I never said it would happen, I said it could””

          That doesn’t matter. There are no outs when writing an article like this. I say “could” because nothing is guaranteed, obviously. But people will always view it as me saying it will happen. I’m not looking for outs here.

          Also, please don’t analyze my headlines. Analyze the articles. I hate headlines. You spend time writing 1000-2000 words with full analysis, but people aren’t going to read it unless the 10 word headline has something catchy. You’re not going to get anywhere in a discussion with me by analyzing a headline.

          • Whatever man. Don’t analyze the headlines… You still have yet to be the least bit specific about what constitutes domination.

            And you also have yet to say what you predict as a weighted mean performance for the bullpen. If the bullpen pitches to it 50th percentile projection what do you predict as far cumulative in 2017?


            I’m not reading the headline anymore. So are you suggesting the bullpen dominating in 2017 is likely though not guaranteed?

            • I don’t have that projection. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

              • I’m a bit confused, if you are relatively confident about this bullpen what is difficult about making a projection or at least a projection range? For example…

                I think bullpen wilh have a FIP near 3.5 give or take .1
                I think ERA will be near 3.2 give or take .2
                I think we will have 5 WPA give or take 1
                I think bullpen puts up 4 fWAR give or take .5

                Something like that seems relatively easy to predict.

              • Hello! Could means could last time I checked! And as the season unfolds, we’ll see what happens. Nothing wrong at all with examining stuff, advanced metrics etc and projecting possibilities. It’s one of the main reasons people enjoy reading Tim’s great articles!

      • Is it objective when we don’t speak about the things which lead us to the objective conclusions? Average, slightly above average…sure, but dominating? That’s not an FO apologist and i’ve never once even thought that for a second regarding your analysis……but whom outside pittsburgh thinks this is even a top 10 bullpen in baseball, really? The top 3 for our bullpen don’t really stand up to other top 3’s in baseball. They just don’t. Depth is never dominance.

        • Watson was one of the best relievers in baseball before his down year in 2016.

          I linked to two outside articles that rave about Rivero.

          Hudson is better than his surface numbers indicate, and will have better results in Pittsburgh, and outside of Arizona.

          Nicasio was dominant in a relief role last year, as the numbers showed.

          And then we get to the depth.

          • Rivero has a chance to be one of best relievers in MLB if he harnesses his command.

            Watson has been mediocre since July 2015. In his approximately last 100 innings pitched has a FIP of 3.94, xFIP of 4.29

            Everything about Hudson’s peripherals indicate an ordinary reliever(hopefully he is much better than his FIP, xfip)

            So…. how does that stack up with Wade Davis, Uehera, Strop, Rondon etc

            Or Oh, Cecil, Rosenthal, Siegrist etc

            That’s just 2 in the division

            • John W….you preach the truth.

              • Haha, don’t know about that Foo but thanks. Trust me I hope this pen does dominate. I can’t wait to get this season started.

                • I think we ALL hope they dominate.

                  But, pointing out flaws in Tim’s article hardly makes us Negative Nellies.

                  If I had to bet, I’d place them at average.

                  I smell another Foo Survey. I wonder what the “crowd” thinks. 🙂

            • This is a common issue with analysis on this site…a lack of context. Dominant relative to what?

              PP does a fantastic job covering the Pirates, but there’s often little point of comparison given to judge where the Pirates rank among their competition.

              That’s OK! Tim doesn’t have a large staff, and the detail on the Pirates themselves is second to none. But pieces like this are left lacking.

          • Nicasio had moments of dominance and struck out a lot of batters. But, he too often had bouts of mediocrity and “stinkedness”.

            • Wainright pinch hitting will stick with me as an example of Nicasio’s pitching. He was awful that game.

          • Watson- true- but will that revert back? Who knows. Rivero……hasn’t dominate anyone yet due to his control, I couldn’t care less about how hard he throws. Hudson….hasn’t been good at all, Nicasio….dominant? I wouldn’t go quite that far. Its a team full of decent relievers plus 1 dominant pitcher that had a bad year, and one future dominant reliever whom can’t be relied upon at all yet. I don’t think I’m missing anything here.

            What I’m getting at here Tim is not a single player in our bullpen was dominant last year. Not one. I’m not really sure what outlets are saying our bullpen is even top third in the MLB, let alone dominant. I’m still waiting to hear anyone whom says otherwise.

      • You try to point out something to someone….if they don’t want to hear it, what can you do?

      • Do you only reference things that you believe to be correct about? I’ve been here a while and this seems to be a pattern with you. Do you acknowledge that the bullpen wasn’t nearly as good down the stretch last year? That quotes like this one didn’t pan out:” If you’re a fan of the idea that it’s more difficult to pitch in the ninth inning, then Watson is a great replacement for Melancon. ” That in retrospect it wasn’t reasonable to think the ghost of Jon Niese would return to being a 2+ WAR pitcher?

        My point is that if we make enough predictions we are all right and all wrong plenty of the time. I could not care less about the FO apologist stuff. And just as you apparently hate that term, I don’t enjoy you intimating those that disagree with you do it because they like to harp on the negative.

        When me and others disagreed with you about how the bullpen would perform the last 2 months of 2016 it wasn’t because of an enjoyment of being “negative”. It was in a search of objectivity which simply came to a much different conclusion than you did.

    • To quote Marshall McLuhan “All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values”. So Foo what’s your point.?

  • The Pirates Bullpen Could Dominate Implode in 2017 and Beyond.

    I fixed the headline for you, Tim.

    We have so many question marks in our ‘pen that it is more likely to blow up. And, I LOVE Rivero.

    Is Watson on the decline?
    What has Hudson, Nicasio, Bastardo and Hughes done other than be average?

    I like our AAA arms, but they could just as easily come up here and have 6.00 ERAs. Who knows if any of our starters could be bullpen stalwarts.

    And, for all the love I have for Rivero, his command needs to up a couple of notches before I would consider him dominant.

    • I will say that Nicasio had some excellent spurts last year and at time was dominant. But he has a lefty problem. He can steamroll righties when he’s on. But until he ever gets his splits vs lefties under control I don’t think he could be 9th inning guy.

      As I said below I simply don’t want Watson anywhere near closer role. Seems to be regressing and just not good enough vs righties.

      Rivero definitely has the stuff to close. He had reverse splits last year and if I recall correctly was better vs righties than lefties. Needs to throw more strikes. His changeup is filthy and he definitely could be closer sometime soon but you can’t have a closer issuing walks like he did last year with the Bucs(his BB ratio was much better with Nats)

      I hope and suspect the Pirates saw something beyond the disparity between Hudson’s results and DIPs. Because even his DIPs are rather ordinary. I have to think they think with a minor tweak or delivery change he could be much better than his DIPs suggest. I don’t think they go 2/11 unless they think he is closer material. I’m guessing sometime early in the season Hudson is closing. Let’s hope it works out.

      • If Watson pitches less innings as a closer, maybe he rejuvenates to 2015 form. He has been way overworked.

        • or maybe he is just starting to decline?

          The shelf life of relievers is not very long usually.

          • There not very long because most bullpens have 50/50 crap in them. The good relievers shelf life is usually pretty decent. Hell Ross Orlendork is still pitching.

    • All joking aside, what “COULD” means is a good question? Is it 70th percentile projection? 90th percentile? 95th?

      I mean the Cubs COULD only win 81 games or less this year but I’d say that’s a very small chance of happening.

      I’d say the Pirates bullpen COULD be very good but that’s an unlikely outcome.

      I’d say the chance of the bullpen being very good or very bad are about close to equal.

    • We don’t have any relievers that are worse than average- that it itself means you have a good bullpen….but dominating… In fact, other than the kids which could make a difference towards “beyond” 2017 has little change of dominating with Watson as the closer….or anyone else currently on this roster. It’s built to have a high floor, not a high ceiling.

      • As you already said, on paper at a 50% weighted mean projection I don’t think our top 3 stacks up as “dominant” when you look around MLB. That obviously doesn’t mean they couldn’t be dominant but I don’t think it is the most likely outcome.

        Rivero clearly has some pitches that are well, well above league average and could be elite with better fastball command.

        Watson would have to return to a level he hasn’t really been at since around July 2015.

        And Hudson has to pitch much, much better than his peripherals if he is going to be high leverage guy. Tim talks about the disparity between Hudson’s results and peripherals but a 3.81 FIP and 4.12 xFIP does not imply domination- that is clearly middle of the pack, mediocre. I’m not saying Hudson will be mediocre but there needs to be more than his DIPs and velocity to suggest he will be a dominant high leverage reliever.

        Nicasio can be very good vs righties

        If Santana or Neverauskas contribute in a big way that could obviously change things- but once again that should be considered relatively low probability at this point in time. And lots of teams have promising farmhands who could seriously help their bullpen if they quickly reach near their ceilings.

    • We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us

  • Seriously Tim, can you explain to me what is dominant about Hudson’s profile? His K% was 21.6% which is barely league average and ranked 86th among qualified relievers. And it’s not like he matched that with impeccable command/control(8.2%). If anything his DIPs and K-BB% scream ORDINARY regardless of his velocity.

    Rivero definitely has some exciting stuff.

    • His WHIP the last 4 years suggest dominance.


    • His SwStrk% was considerably above average last year, though, which portends the opportunity for better K% moving forward, given small adjustments. That is to say, you can get a good feel for a pitcher’s “stuff” from SwStk%, whereas you can get a good idea of how well that stuff is harnessed from K%.

      He’s also above average in inducing swings out of the zone. He’s not elite in either of those categories, but there are elements in his profile which indicate he’s underperformed his talent. His average command and better than average contact management coupled to harnessing his stuff for more strikeouts would make him a really good reliever.

  • What does “dominate” mean? It is highly unlikely the Pirates have a bullpen in next decade or longer that dominated from 2013-15(mostly because of Melancon and Watson).

    While Hudson’s DIPs are better than his results there is nothing that screams dominance about them.

  • The biggest difference watching ’15’s team and ’16’s was that in ’15, when the Bucs hit the 7th inning with a lead, the game was over. In ’16, too many times they never got to Melancon. If they can get back to where they were (actually ’13-’14-’15 were all excellent), then they will contend.

  • All hinges on Watson and his ability to become a dominant Closer. If he struggles early, how much rope does CH give him?

    The contract Hudson signed sure made it look like Pirates want him to show them he can be a Closer.

    • Watson does not have the stuff to be a dominant closer and let’s pray that experiment has ended. In 4 of 6 seasons he has an Xfip of 4.23 or higher vs righties. He IS NOT the guy you want to be closing out games for you consistently facing a bunch of righties.

      • This is where Hurdle’s ” he earned the closer role” mantra really hurts. Why not play matchup a little more against the bats if we have four string arms?(I include Nicasio as my fourth).
        As Scott said above, Watson grooves it too often to power right handed bats and does not deserve to be the closer in every situation.

      • Watson had good enough stuff to dominate 8th innings for a couple of years. Is his stuff on the decline, or does he not have the mental makeup of a closer, or did he just have a down year and will bounce back???? Check back in June!

        • He lacks a strikeout pitch he can go to when he needs it. His velo has dropped 1.2 mph on his FB since 2014 while over that period his K/9 has dropped from 9.43 to 7.71 and his BB/9 has increased from 1.75 to 2.66. GB% decreased from 47.6% to 43.8%.

          Lots of numbers going in the wrong direction over the past two years.