2013 NLDS: Pittsburgh Pirates Have The Superior Bullpen

By Zach Morrison
Tony Watson
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ bullpen has been one of the most consistent, dominant bullpens in MLB this season. The only team with a better bullpen ERA than the Pirates’ 2.89 ERA was the Atlanta Braves. Much like last season, the Pirates’ bullpen started the season in outstanding fashion, but sputtered a bit down the stretch. Fortunately for the Bucs, their bullpen seems to be back on track.

From the top to the bottom, the Pirates’ bullpen has been full of pleasant surprises. Who could have guessed that Vin Mazzaro would finish 2013 with a 2.81 ERA in 73.2 innings? His career ERA is 4.73, and his ERA in 2012 was all the way up to 5.73. Mazzaro did a great job of limiting walks and getting ground balls, like most of the Pirates’ pitchers.

Jeanmar Gomez, with a career ERA of 4.67, pitched to a 3.35 ERA in 80.2 innings. He had a very impressive 55.4 ground ball percentage. Mazzaro and Gomez are the only two pitchers in the Pirates’ bullpen that don’t have electric stuff with the ability to strike out the side at any given time.

Let me throw an assortment of numbers at you: 7.21, 6.78, 8.87, 13.32. Those are the K/9 rates of Justin Wilson, Tony Watson, Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli respectively. The strikeouts are there, and they get more frequent as the game gets into later innings.

The Pirates’ two lefties, Wilson and Watson, have a 2.08 ERA and 2.39 ERA respectively. Watson has been one of the five most dominant relievers in MLB in the second half. Grilli and Melancon have been the best 1-2 combination in the eighth and ninth inning 2013. Grilli went on the disabled list for a couple weeks. He hasn’t gotten his velocity back yet, but his breaking ball is still there.

The Pirates’ “Shark Tank” had the third-best bullpen ERA all season — how could anyone argue that their bullpen isn’t better than the St. Louis Cardinals‘ bullpen?

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