The Pittsburgh Pirates once again have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. If not for their dominant group of relief pitchers, the Pirates would be much worse than their current 30-34 record, especially since the team’s starting pitchers haven’t been able to go deep into games. Lefty Tony Watson is by far the Pirates’ best reliever, and with a little over a month until the 2014 MLB All-Star Game, it’s time to take a look at his chances at making the roster.
The Pirates’ bullpen ranks seventh in baseball with a 3.04 ERA. Among relievers with at least 20 innings pitched, Watson ranks fifth with an ERA of 0.93. The dominance shown by Watson in 2014 has simply been amazing. The power-lefty has gone 19 straight appearances without allowing a run.
Compared to his excellent 2013 season, Watson is actually striking out nearly twice as many batters. Last year, Watson had just 6.78 K/9; this season, he has 10.86 K/9. Lefties that throw like Watson are rare in baseball, but have become more popular in recent years. He can throw in the high-90s,with an excellent swing-and-miss slider and a decent changeup. The days of the “crafty” lefties appear to be dwindling, as baseball is transitioning into strictly power arms, especially in bullpens.
Considering how good Watson’s stuff is, he actually doesn’t walk all that many batters. In 2013, the lefty walked just 1.51 batters per nine innings; this year, he has allowed just 2.48 BB/9. His 2014 walk rate isn’t elite, but when he’s picking up 10.86 K/9, he can work around a few extra free passes.
So, let’s recap why Watson deserves a spot on the All-Star team. He has the fifth best ERA among relievers with at least 20 innings, both in the American and National Leagues, at 0.93. He has become a strikeout pitcher for the Pirates, with 10.86 K/9 this season. Not to mention, the Pirates’ bullpen has been excellent, so their best reliever should certainly receive some consideration.