Bullpen and Defense Carry Pirates to Above .500 Record

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

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Of course it's far too early to make any legitimate evaluations of position groups, but I certainly did not expect to speak about the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen this positively at any point in the 2022 season.  They are a rag tag group made up of a combination of struggling starting pitchers, guys easily acquired in the offseason, and those who hadn't had full seasons to evaluate at the major league level.  The bullpen as a whole just had a ton of if's coming into this season.

Now, they look like the top reason the Pirates are above .500 almost two weeks into the season.  Especially impressive is pitching at the level they have with how often they have been called upon already.  The Pirates starters have not been going deep into ballgames, with only the home opener seeing a Pittsburgh starter pitch into the 6th.  Yet, the Pirates bullpen has just a 2.98 ERA so far.

A lot of this production has fallen on the shoulders of former starter Wil Crowe.  Crowe has been dominant this season, with now 9.2 shutout innings out of the bullpen.  He has given up just three hits, all singles, and prior to today's work, it was just the one hit on the season.  Crowe has really taken to his new role and looks like an entirely different pitcher coming out of the 'pen.

Another dominant relief pitcher for the Pirates has been David Bednar.  Bednar not nearly the surprise Crowe has been since Bednar has been pitching like this for almost a full calendar year now.  Dating all the way back to June 18th of last season, Bednar has give up just four earned runs in over 40+ innings pitched.  He has developed into an elite closer and could find himself in the All-Star Game by the time July rolls around.  He also earned his first save of the 2022 season this afternoon after pitching 1.2 scoreless innings last night.

These two among Heath Hembree, Roansy Contreras, Anthony Banda, and Dillon Peters, have been pleasant surprises so far this season.  Miguel Yajure also looked great in one outing out of the 'pen this season, but got beat up his second time out.

Another aspect of the Pirates play that has carried them so far, this one much more expected, has been their defense.  They tied for the best fielding percentage as a team last season and have picked up right where they left off.

Each game the Pirates appear to have one or two highlight reel plays that are far from routine.  In addition to Ke'Bryan Hates looking like he will have the Gold Glove locked up by the end of May, Michael Chavis, Ben Gamel, and Kevin Newman also have looked great with the glove.  This afternoon, Chavis made a web gem worthy diving grab at third base, and a beautiful Gamel to Diego Castillo to Roberto Perez relay cut down a run at the plate in the 7th inning.

Also, aside from the opener, the Pirate have not committed more than a single error in any given game.  They have picked up right where they left off 2021.  This is very important for a team that does not have the best pitching staff, despite a great start to the season from the bullpen, and a lineup that will not consistently put up a ton of runs.  Fundamentals are important for a young team like the Pirates.

So here we sit.  Three series into the season and the Pirates are 5-4.  I'm not reserving my spot at the parade just yet, but it's okay to get excited about an early series win for the Pirates.  And if their bullpen continues on this trajectory, which is a huge if, they will finish the season much better than most, including myself, expected.