One of the main reasons the Pittsburgh Pirates got off to such a great start through July was the performance of closer Joel Hanrahan. “The Hammer” was in the middle of another great season that saw him make the NL All-Star team for the second consecutive season, converting 34-of-37 save opportunities.
Like him or not, Hanrahan has become one of the best closers in the game. He shows some control issues at times and makes things interesting, but almost always seems to get the job done. Opposing hitters are batting only .178 against him and he has a team best 2.35 ERA.
With numbers like that, you would think the Bucs would be leaning on Hanrahan a lot down the stretch as they fight for their playoff lives, but that hasn’t been the case.
The 30-year old right-hander hasn’t had a save opportunity in an astonishing 25 days, as the Pirates have gone only 6-16 since Hanrahan’s last save, which was Aug. 17 against the Cardinals.
In addition in the 22 games since that last save, Hanrahan has appeared in only eight games over that span, allowing only one run on Corey Hart’s walk-off homer in Milwaukee Sept. 1.
The Bucs had success often because they could get Hanrahan the ball, now they can’t get it to him. He’s still the best weapon coming out of the bullpen and is being wasted at the moment.
It’s also hard for a closer to remain effective when he’s pitching every fourth or fifth day in meaningless situations.
If you have a weapon like Hanrahan, you have to be able to use him. Right now, that’s not the case.
Since no one wants to claim the final wild card spot, as the Dodgers and Cardinals keep losing as well, the Pirates still have a legitimate opportunity, sitting only 2.5 games behind St. Louis.
However to do that, they need to start winning games. They can start by getting Hanrahan the ball with a lead.