There Was No Doubt About It

A Pittsburgh Pirates Blog

Pirates at Rangers: Some Better Pitchers

05.27.16 Posted by

Niese vs. Hamels, 8:05 PM

Since the Cubs’ series the Pirates haven’t just played weaker teams (one awful one and two not-awful-but-below-average ones), they’ve faced weaker pitchers almost exclusively. In that ten game homestand, there were maybe two starters that the Pirates shouldn’t have necessarily beat up on (and one of them, they didn’t, accounting for one of their two losses). That changes tonight.

The Pirates fly to Texas, and there to greet them is Cole Hamels. Hamels is sporting a career high 9.73 Ks per nine rate this year, but a career high 3.30 BB per nine rate to go with it. He’s got an impossibly high, Liriano-esque HR/FB rate, too, but an impossibly high LOB% as well. In other words, some metrics say he’s better than this, and some say he’s worse, and when xFIP tries to sort it all out it comes up with 3.30. In other words: very good.

After Hamels, the Bucs have to face Yu Darvish, with the only mercy being that tomorrow will be his first start of the season after undergoing Tommy John’s fickle knife last year. Their game three starter, Martin Perez, has a 3.13 ERA, though it’s probably a mirage, as he’s walked almost as many as he’s struck out.

The point is, these are better starters than the Pirates have faced recently, and this is a pretty good Rangers team. One potentially useful wrinkle, however, is that the pitching staff is a little lopsided: Texas is #1 in the American League in starter ERA…and dead last in reliever ERA. That’s the kind of pitching staff the Pirates can have some fun with if they play their game.

How many runs they’ll need is a tough question: with Jeff Locke’s recent run, Jonathan Niese stands as the worst starter in the rotation. He does, however, have two strong starts in a row, and though the Atlanta one comes with a big asterisk, those seven innings against Colorado do not. Even something in the Quality Start range tonight would be very encouraging.

First pitch is at 8:05 PM.

Filed under: game preview, Jonathan Niese