We all remember how painful the 2011 collapse of the Pittsburgh Pirates was, but that disaster doesn’t hold a candle to the sequel.
In all honesty, this could be the most painful season of Pirates baseball in the past 20 years of losing. After watching Chad Qualls, who shouldn’t really be on this team to begin with, surrender an eighth-inning lead Thursday to the Milwaukee Brewers it all but stuck the fork in the Bucs season.
The Pirates are now under .500 and there are no answers.
Yesterday I outlined the poor performance of the Pirates hitters, striking out nine times per game and hitting a mere .216 with RISP since August 1.
Today it’s time to point the finger at the pitching staff.
All year we thought that this team had what it took in the form of pitching depth. By adding a couple of veterans in Erik Bedard and A. J. Burnett in the offseason, there would be no way the Bucs’ pitching would collapse like a season ago. Add to that the first half performance of James McDonald and the light’s out job the bullpen did in the first half and everyone could see the reason for the optimism.
But the trends are similar to what happened a year ago.
Let’s take a look at the ERA of each pitcher after August 1:
James McDonald: 6.25 ERA
Erik Bedard: 5.91 ERA
A.J. Burnett: 4.45 ERA
Jeff Karstens: 3.82 ERA
Wandy Rodriguez: 3.23 ERA
Kevin Correia: 3.09 ERA
As you can see, the guy that was taken out of the rotation (Correia) has produced the best results. Rodriguez has also put together a good stretch after a slow start when initially acquired from the Houston Astros. Karstens has been sidelined for a while but what sticks out is both J-Mac and A.J., who were the Pirates two best pitchers the first half of the season and ultimately have turned into the two worst during the stretch run.
If you want to point a finger at the starters, point it at McDonald and Burnett as they were the guys expected to get the job done in the second half and simply haven’t done so.
Relievers (IR stands for inherited runners, IS stands for inherited runners who scored) (Inherited numbers are courtesy of Tim Williams of Pirates Prospects)
Jared Hughes: 5.48 ERA, 17 IR, 41% IS
Chad Qualls: 5.73 ERA, 3 IR, 33% IS
Jason Grilli: 5.63 ERA, 4 IR, 0% IS
Joel Hanrahan: 3.77 ERA, 2 IR, 0% IS
Chris Resop: 3.05 ERA 7 IR, 43% IS
Tony Watson: 2.35 ERA, 19 IR, 16% IS
This was a unit that was outstanding for four months and suddenly has become a liability. What stands out are the ERAs of Hughes and Grilli, who couldn’t duplicate their outstanding first halves of the season. Qualls ERA is also awful, but I don’t consider him a quality bullpen arm and wonder why he gets the opportunity when there are more quality arms in the organization that could produce better results.
The other thing that has gone wrong is that the bullpen can’t get outs when they come in with runners on base. Hughes and Resop have allowed more than 40 percent of their inherited runners to score. That’s unacceptable.
The collapse of the pitching staff is similar to that of 2011. What it comes down to is the Pirates’ starters haven’t pitched well early in games, often falling behind in the first inning. Add to that the inability of the bullpen to get big outs and the end result is Collapse II for the Pirates pitching staff.