Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Felipe Rivero has impressed early in 2017, and his efficiency has led the way.

The Pittsburgh Pirates knew they were getting a live arm in Felipe Rivero when they acquired him as the headline piece of the Mark Melancon trade.

They also knew that the fireballer was rough around the edges – prone to fits of ill control at times – but had a considerable talent level.

If we flash forward to today, Rivero has many fans and observers excited at what he brings to the Pirates’ bullpen as a now-stalwart late inning option.

He can thank his newfound efficiency for that.

An Effective and Dirty Dozen

Here, we will define “efificiency” as a simple term – how many pitches does it take for a reliever to pitch one inning. When we are talking about late-inning options for the Pittsburgh Pirates, we have seen enough of Clint Hurdle‘s usage to understand that pitching one inning is his preferred usage for his late-in-the-game options.

With that being said, Rivero has laid down a blueprint for his continued success in 2017. Last night versus the Atlanta Braves, Rivero completed a clean seventh inning of relief in just seven pitches. Now, every pitcher – especially relievers – will have an inning like that from time to time.

But overall, Rivero has worked to get through innings at a much faster clip. In his 2016 time with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Rivero averaged 17.82 pitches per appearance. Through his first four appearances in 2017, Rivero has lowered that figure to 12. 

That is impressive stuff, especially so when considering that Rivero still likes to toy around with hitters a bit, evidenced by his 2017 strikezone map to this point.

Can It Continue?

Eventually, hitters may adjust to what Rivero is doing and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ brass will have to game plan a bit more on how to guard against that pushback.

But overall, there is no reason to think that this performance cannot continue, so long as Rivero can maintain mechanics and perhaps improve on his control a bit. And the singular reason that it can continue is his pitch mix.

Take yesterday’s outing for example. Rivero came out firing, with six of his seven pitches being four-seam fastballs that averaged 97.1 mph as per Brooks Baseball. We all know about his changeup, but there will be times when the left-hander can just come out and sling it, if the scouting reports call for it, or his other stuff isn’t working.

With a well-chosen pitch mix, velocity and the building confidence with each outing, Pittsburgh Pirates fans should expect to see shorter outings for Rivero become the norm very quickly.

Just don’t blink, you might miss him.

Photo credit – Daniel Decker Photography

Jason Rollison

Jason Rollison has been analyzing baseball and the Pirates in one way or another for 4+ years. Jason's previous stops include rumbunter.com, Pittsburgh Sporting News, Call To The Pen and several print publications. He also covers the State College Spikes for the Centre County Gazette (State College, PA) When it comes to analyzing baseball, he likes to take a middle-of-the-road approach, with one foot on the analytics side of the fence and the other on the old-school side. Having said that, he is a sucker for pitchf/x. Jason has appeared as a phone-in and in-studio guests in numerous outlets, including Trib Live Radio and 93.7 The Fan (CBS Sports Radio)