The Pittsburgh Pirates improved to 7-2 on Saturday as they scored 10 runs in their dominant win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The pitching for the Pirates continued to be great in the early part of games, but it also continued to struggle in the late innings. Luckily for the pitching staff, they got a bit of a break on Saturday thanks to the Pirates’ offensive outburst.
All spring, the Pirates have gotten great starting pitching. However, in the later innings, the Pirates’ relievers have been giving up more runs than they would like. Fortunately, most of the runs are being allowed by the relievers who are simply depth options. Josh Kinney and Cody Eppley were the victims today, as they gave up two runs each in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
The Pirates got a great performance from their catcher, Russell Martin, on Saturday. The defensive ace went 2-for-3 with his third home run of the spring, while driving in four runs. In 15 plate appearances this spring, Martin is hitting .462/.533/1.231 and leading the team in home runs. In fact, Martin is the only Pirate with more than one homer so far.
The Pirates will need to have another great season from Martin in 2014, so seeing him get off to a hot start in the spring is certainly a positive sign. In 2013, Martin hit .226/.327/.377 with a 101 wRC+. His biggest value came defensively, however, as he was one of the best catchers in terms of pitch framing. He was in the top five in runs saved from pitch framing and he saved 16 runs overall on defense.
Backing up Martin in 2014 will be Chris Stewart, another defensive-minded backstop. Much like Martin, Stewart is known for excellent pitch framing. Framing pitches is vital when it comes to winning baseball games, as every pitch the pitcher throws can be effected by the catcher in some way. What other defensive position has the ability to affect every pitch?