Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Pen To The Rescue

The Pirates' bullpen has allowed one run in 19 innings during the first four games of the current homestand. Their collective ERA is 3.29, tenth in MLB. That's pretty nice performance from a group whose sole purpose in life, as Clint Hurdle has said, is "to get the ball to Joel Hanrahan."

Hanny has been lights out. His ERA is 1.27, his WHIP is 0.93, and he's 21-for-21 in the save department; his fastball/slider combo has been devastating. It was a matter of debate when the suits chose him to close in the spring without any competition; they look like Nostradamus now. If he's not in the All-Star game, shame on baseball. But there's been many a twist and turn with the guys behind him.

Evan Meek, Joe Beimel and Mike Crotta all ended up on the DL and Jeff Karstens was thrown into the rotation. So much for April planning; only Hanny, Jose Veras and Chris Resop remain from the opening day roster. JV and CR have had spells where they've been banged around, but their overall lines have been outstanding. 

Veras has appeared in 38 games, held 14, finished five and saved one. His ERA is 2.94, and he has a WHIP of 1.129 with 38 K's in 33-2/3 innings. Resop has been in 36 games and has a 3.67 ERA, bloated by a poor but thankfully short period of inconsistency, with a WHIP of 1.223. He's got nine holds to his credit this season.

But you gotta love the work of D-Mac, Tony Watson, Dan Moskos and Tim Woods as the cavalry charging to the rescue so far this season. 

Daniel McCutchen took over Karstens' spot seamlessly, and has the added advantage of being useful in later, higher-leverage situations. He's got a 2.37 ERA in 30 games, and covered 37 innings with a 1.211 WHIP. Watson (1.04 ERA), Moskos (2.70 ERA) and Woods (4.05 ERA) have all been used to mix-and-match, and Clint Hurdle isn't afraid to toss them on the hill when the game is on the line.

Crotta (9.28 ERA) and Beimel (5.40 ERA) have to worry about whether or not they'll be a spot open for them when they return. And that's a good problem to have.

The young righty, Crotta, will probably be optioned to Indy when he returns to action. Our guess is that if Beimel returns in time, the FO would like to get him on the hill so he's a veteran lefty chip in play before the trade deadline. 

In years past, Resop and Veras would be shopped around. But with Meek's injury - he's still not throwing - and the Buccos' flirtation with a winning record, they may hang around this season unless it falls apart in the next few weeks or someone wants to overpay.

Hey, the Pirate FO has always thought that a bullpen was the easiest part of the team to build, and judging by the past two seasons, they may be onto something.

And give Hurdle and Ray Searage props, too. The skipper may run and bunt like a madman, but he's handled the pen in textbook fashion, keeping the arms fresh. Searage is the anti-Joe Kerrigan, communicating with his guys and allowing them to pitch to their strengths rather than to an opponent's weakness.

So far, so good.

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