Tag: Vin Mazzaro

Gerrit Cole

The Pirates have made velocity an organizational focus


Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review wrote an intriguing column about the rise in fastball velocity across Major League Baseball. In 2008, the average fastball in the Majors registered at 90.9 MPH; in 2013, it was 92 MPH. A change of 1.1 MPH over a six-year period may seem small, but when hundreds of thousands of fastballs are thrown every year, it becomes a statistically significant change.

Sawchik adds that more pitchers are hitting triple digits (100-plus MPH) more consistently than they have since velocity-tracking has become a regular part of the game. Some teams have begun to prioritize velocity over other traits, and the Pirates — one of baseball’s most forward-thinking organizations — are among them. From Sawchik’s column:

Under general manager Neal Huntington, the Pirates made targeting and acquiring velocity a key part of their strategy, adding pitchers such as A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, and placing a premium on velocity in the draft.

“(Velocity) gives you a larger margin for error,” Huntington said. “Ninety-four (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate has much more margin for error than 88 (mph) that runs and gets too much of the plate.”

In Huntington’s first season as general manager, the Pirates ranked 18th in fastball velocity at 90.8 mph. The Pirates’ fastball velocity has improved every year under Huntington, averaging 92.5 mph last season, 10th in baseball.

Per Sawchik, Pirates 2011 first round pick and starting pitcher Gerrit Cole threw 22 pitches that registered at 100 MPH or faster last season. Reliever Bryan Morris averaged 94 MPH on his fastball last year, but showed up in camp throwing 97 MPH, drawing the attention of scouts. Other pitchers who averaged 93 MPH or better last season included relievers Mark Melancon, Vin Mazzaro, Tony Watson, and Justin Wilson, as well as starter Francisco Liriano, a bargain bin pick-up who was a key reason why the Pirates snapped a 20-year-long playoff drought.

Ranking the bullpens: 2014 edition

Detroit Tigers v Atlanta Braves

We tried this with the rotations the other day. Once again, I’ll be dipping into my 2014 projections here to rank the bullpens. To come up with the following bullpen ERAs, I simply combined each team’s seven highest-IP relievers, according to my projections.

Royals – 2.93
Red Sox – 3.14
Athletics – 3.16
Rangers – 3.31
Tigers – 3.35
Rays – 3.36
Blue Jays – 3.39
Twins – 3.40
Mariners – 3.42
Indians – 3.49
Orioles – 3.55
White Sox – 3.58
Angels – 3.58
Yankees – 3.77
Astros – 3.97

– That’s a weaker showing for the Rays than I would have guessed, but they still have excellent depth and a couple of the lesser knowns will surely surprise, as they always do. My projections call for essentially the same ERAs from their 6th-12th relievers.

– The Blue Jays would have come in fourth here had I used both Dustin McGowan and Jeremy Jeffress instead of adding in Esmil Rogers. Rogers, though, seems like the best bet to have a spot.

– Boston comes in second even though it’s big addition, Edward Mujica, has the worst projected ERA of its seven relievers. However, Ryan Dempster is still projected as a starter for these purposes and would bring the group down a bit if he starts off in the pen.

– I assume the Yankees will add a veteran reliever prior to Opening Day. Even so, that ranking isn’t going up at all with such a big gap to the White Sox and Angels.

Dodgers – 3.07
Braves – 3.16
Cardinals – 3.19
Giants – 3.24
Reds – 3.29
Diamondbacks – 3.29
Nationals – 3.31
Padres – 3.31
Marlins – 3.38
Pirates – 3.42
Brewers – 3.50
Mets – 3.59
Cubs – 3.59
Phillies – 3.61
Rockies – 3.79

– The Pirates’ ranking here is getting dragged down by Jeanmar Gomez and Vin Mazzaro, who are both projected to throw more innings than the top guys in their pen. They’ll be higher in the subjective rankings.

– The Cardinals are kind of an odd case, given that I have both Joe Kelly and Carlos Martinez projected to open up in the pen but also spend some time in the rotation. The only three pitchers I have on the team in that typical 60-, 70-inning range are Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness. So, the depth is in question. On the other hand, a Jason Motte-Martinez-Rosenthal combo has the potential to be the best in the majors in the late innings, depending on how things shake out.

Here’s my ranking, 1-30, along with the top three ERAs from each team:

1. Royals (Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera, Luke Hochevar)
2. Athletics (Sean Doolittle, Danny Otero, Ryan Cook)
3. Dodgers (Kenley Jansen, Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell)
4. Braves (Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden)
5. Red Sox (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller)
6. Cardinals (Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate, Kevin Siegrist)
7. Rays (Jake McGee, Grant Balfour, Joel Peralta)
8. Pirates (Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Tony Watson)
9. Diamondbacks (Brad Ziegler, J.J. Putz, David Hernandez)
10. Reds (Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Sam LeCure)
11. Rangers (Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers, Neftali Feliz)
12. Blue Jays (Aaron Loup, Sergio Santos, Casey Janssen)
13. Nationals (Craig Stammen, Tyler Clippard, Rafael Soriano)
14. Giants (Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jean Machi)
15. Tigers (Al Alburquerque, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon)
16. Twins (Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fein)
17. Padres (Joaquin Benoit, Alex Torres, Nick Vincent)
18. Indians (Cody Allen, Josh Outman, Marc Rzepczynski)
19. Mariners (Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, Fernando Rodney)
20. Marlins (Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos)
21. Rockies (Rex Brothers, Boone Logan, Wilton Lopez)
22. Orioles (Darren O’Day, Brian Matusz, Tommy Hunter)
23. Brewers (Brandon Kintzler, Will Smith, Jim Henderson)
24. Angels (Ernesto Frieri, Joe Smith, Dane De La Rosa)
25. White Sox (Nate Jones, Scott Downs, Daniel Webb)
26. Cubs (Pedro Strop, Wesley Wright, Blake Parker)
27. Mets (Bobby Parnell, Gonzalez Germen, Josh Edgin)
28. Yankees (David Robertson, Preston Claiborne, Shawn Kelley)
29. Phillies (Jake Diekman, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo)
30. Astros (Jesse Crain, Chia-Jen Lo, Josh Fields)

– The Royals are an easy No. 1 in my mind. Not only do they have the elite closer in Greg Holland, but all seven of their relievers have ERAs under 3.40 in my projections. Even if they take away from the group by sticking either Wade Davis or Luke Hochevar back in the rotation, they’d still take the top spot, though that would narrow the gap considerably.

– Even though they seemed to be in pretty good shape anyway, the A’s added $15 million in relievers in the form of Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson. I still have the incumbents (Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Danny Otero) with the best ERAs of the group.

– The Mariners were set to be ranked 21st before the Fernando Rodney signing.

Jason Grilli exits game with right forearm discomfort

Jason Grilli

One of the best feel-good stories of the season took an unfortunate turn this evening, as ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Pirates closer Jason Grilli left a game against the Nationals in the ninth inning with right forearm discomfort.

Grilli was in obvious pain after he threw a pitch that was fouled off by Steve Lombardozzi. He walked off the field with a trainer before being replaced by Vin Mazzaro, who managed to finish off a 6-5 victory for his first major league save.

Grilli has been a revelation out of the closer role for the Pirates this season, posting a 2.34 ERA and 66/10 K/BB ratio over 42 1/3 innings while leading the National League with 30 saves. The 36-year-old recently made his first All-Star team and the cover of Sports Illustrated. He previously had Tommy John surgery in 2001 while with the Marlins.

The Pirates figure to turn to Mark Melancon at closer if Grilli needs to miss significant time. Acquired from the Red Sox in the Joel Hanrahan deal over the winter, the 28-year-old right-hander has a 0.97 ERA and 47/6 K/BB ratio over 46 1/3 innings this season.

A manager saving his closer in a tie game on the road backfires again

Clint Hurdle

Shocking, I know.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided against using closer Jason Grilli, one of the best relievers in baseball, as his team battled the Cubs in an 11-inning affair this afternoon. Trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Pirates outfielder Starling Marte tied the game with a solo home run. Hurdle went to Vin Mazzaro in the bottom of the ninth and Bryan Morris in the bottom of the tenth, both recording scoreless innings.

Hurdle could have called on Grilli, but decided to use Morris for a second inning in the eleventh. Morris entered the afternoon with more than half the strikeout rate (17% to 40.5%) and more than double the walk rate (11.5% to 5%). Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano both singled to start the inning, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Catcher Russell Martin made a throwing error throwing behind Rizzo at second base, as Luis Valbuena was attempting to sacrifice bunt to advance both runners. Valbuena was intentionally walked to set up a force out at each base. Dioner Navarro mercifully ended the game quickly, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field to give the Cubs the 4-3 win.

Hurdle is just the latest in a long line of managers who have opted to let their best reliever rot in the bullpen in the hope their team takes a lead rather than actively using him to maintain a tie game. Today, though… today is his.