The Pittsburgh Pirate’s organization has had their ups and downs in recent years, highlighted by three straight playoff appearances starting in the 2013 season. However, after finishing with a loosing record in two of the last three seasons, the team isn’t exactly on track to make a return to the postseason. Not to mention the selling mindset that general manager Neil Huntington carried into last off season by getting rid of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole. They did finish with a winning record last season so there is something to be optimistic about, but the lack of offseason moves seems to indicate that this season won’t be much different. Right now isn’t a great time for the Pirates franchise, but there are a few silver linings to be found in this rough patch.
Last season Huntington arguably made the biggest trade of his long tenure with the Pirates by sending young outfielder Austin Meadows to the Rays in exchange for the established pitcher Chris Archer. This trade appeared as a small push for the postseason from the outside looking in, but also an opportunity to build for the future. Archer will most likely headline the rotation for the Pirates in 2019, a rotation that will show much upside. With Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams both finishing with career low ERAs that approached three last season, the Pirates rotation is probably one that is most overlooked in the league.
In the 2018 season Jameson Taillon added a slider to his arsenal, and it helped him to record the best season so far of his young career. If he repeats what he did last year, than he will probably produce the same results. However, if he make a few changes as to how often he uses each of his pitches then he can definitely improve. The Statcast database known as Baseball Savant indicates that Taillon is very similar to Jacob deGrom and Walker Buehler when it comes to velocity and pitch movement. Except they differ in how often they use each of their specific pitches. The main difference is fastball usage. To start, take a look at Jameson Taillon’s pitch% by season chart below.
You can see that at the beginning of his career the pitch that he threw the most was his sinker. It was not until last season that he increased his fastball usage and introduced a slider. It can be difficult to see where his slider lies in the chart but it is located just below his curveball usage from the 2018 season. I believe that it was this change that led to his success last year and I think that there is more to come. If you take a look below at the pitch% by season for both Walker Buehler and Jacob deGrom, you’ll notice that they use their fastball more often then Taillon.
My point is that if Jameson Taillon increase his fastball usage and decreases his sinker usage, than he can become an even more effective pitcher. However, there is a limit as to how much he should increase his fastball usage. A prime example of a pitcher that uses his fastball to often is Nick Pivetta. Baseball Savant includes Pivetta in the group that has similar velocity and pitch movement compared to deGrom, Buehler, and Taillon. Right below is Pivetta’s pitch% by season. His fastball usage floats right about 50%. This is obviously an example of over usage of his fastball as his ERA came close to five last season.
The goal for Jameson Taillon is to find the sweet spot of what works best for him. More than what he used last year, but not to the extreme level of Nick Pivetta. If Taillon is successfully able to do so, he could really improve. Maybe not to the caliber of winning a Cy Young award like deGrom but he could be well on his way. I look forward to watching Jameson Taillon in 2019 and I think that he’ll be ever better than last year. Who knows what the future holds for him but I do know one thing, if he does increase his fastball usage and decrease how often he uses his sinker, he will be an even better pitcher than he is today.
All data was acquired from Baseball Savant