Pittsburgh Pirates: Solving the starting pitching problem

Wandy Rodriguez

Wandy Rodriguez

The Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves at the bottom of the National League Central and both the offense and the starting pitching have left much for fans to desire.

At the beginning of the season, pitching was believed to be a key factor for Pittsburgh. Last season the pitching staff played a big part in the team’s success, but this year it has been the exact opposite.

Francisco Liriano was last season’s ace and the Pirates were depending on him this season, but the left-hander is winless in seven starts with a 4.54 ERA. On Saturday, Liriano failed to go four complete innings, surrendering five runs on six hits.

Gerrit Cole has had a few good outings where the offense was non-existent, but overall, he has been average. Not something the Pirates had hoped out of their future ace.

The right-hander is 2-2 with a 3.69 ERA, which isn’t horrible. In his last outing, Cole lasted just five innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

Charlie Morton has also struggled this year. Instead of the confident Morton of last season, he looks like the inconsistent pitcher of years past.

The 30-year-old will go four or five solid innings and then fall apart. In his last start, the 21-minute rain delay may have played a role in the three-run fifth inning. Morton did not execute his pitches well after the fourth inning.

The defense always seems to fail when Ground Chuck is on the mound.

Edinson Volquez was the surprising piece of the starting rotation during the month of April, but his last two appearances have been awful.

In his first five starts, Volquez did not allow more than 2 earned runs a game and he kept walks to a minimum. However, since then he has pitched 10.2 innings and allowed 12 runs.

Command has been a struggle for Volquez throughout his career and command is what seems to be affecting him now. His next few starts should determine whether April was a fluke or the real deal.

Wandy Rodriguez struggled for during the month of April and the left-hander landed on the 15-day disable list with knee inflammation.

The 35-year-old has since begun rehabbing in the minors, where he has struggled. Rodriguez rolled through the first two innings for the Altoona Curve, but ran into trouble in the third.

He fell behind in the count and gave up an opposite field two run homer. He lasted just 3.1 innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs with three walks and three strikeouts.

With all five starters struggling and an inconsistent offense it is easy to see how the Pirates are at the bottom of the barrel. It is hard enough for the offense to score two or three runs, let alone five or six on a nightly basis.

If the Pirates hope to dig themselves out of the hole they are in, the starting pitching must drastically improve.

Brandon Cumpton is always an option if the Pirates decide to cut ties with Rodriguez or Volquez. He had two solid starts in his last recall from Triple-A Indianapolis. Casey Sadler and Jeff Locke are also options.

Sadler was called up to Pittsburgh to fill in during the bullpen and has had two good relief appearances. Locke will make a spot start on Monday for the Buccos, but it is unknown which pitcher they will see. In four starts, Locke has a 5.68 ERA in 19 innings, but he has struck out 17 and walked five. Walks were a large part of the left-hander’s regression last season.

Pittsburgh could also try trading for an arm, but when teams start shopping it could be too late. Hopefully the current starters can turn it around.

Cole will likely start pitcher better on a consistent basis. The question is can Morton, Liriano and Rodriguez?

Liriano has a history of struggling early on in the season throughout his career. The Pirates need him to pull it together if they hope to get back to the post season or even .500.

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  • Shanna Rose

    I never said the pitchers had to throw shut outs every day. I agree the offense isn’t great but its basically the same as last year. The offense did enough and pitching was the glue that held it together.They can give up runs and not put up runs. Gerrit Cole didn’t deserve a 1-0 loss when he was lights out a few weeks ago, but what about tonight score 8 runs and the starter gives up 6. That has been the case one to many times this year. I know pitchers will have bad nights. I don’t expect even the best in the game like Kershaw to be perfect every day but they have to give them a chance and these guys haven’t.


    OK. we need pitchers throwing shutouts every time out to win? Unrealistic.. we need some runs, you can’t average 2 runs a game and expect good results.