As the Pittsburgh Pirates try to turn around a 6-9 start to the 2017 season, there are plenty of issues to point the finger at.

You can blame a Pittsburgh Pirates offense that is slow out of the gate again, having scored just three total runs in a three-game sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.

One thing you can’t blame though is the starting pitching, which has been very good to start the season.

Entering the 2017 campaign, the Bucs’ starting rotation was filled with question marks, but they have done their best to answer all of those questions.

Giving the club a chance to win

Nearly every time a PIttsburgh Pirates starter has toed the rubber this season, there has been one common theme.

If you take out a pair of rough starts by Tyler Glasnow and the rest of the Pirates starters have posted a 2.67 ERA, which would be the best mark in all of baseball.

Led by Jameson Taillon and his 0.90 ERA to start the season, the Bucs’ staff as a whole has been very good.  Unfortunately the run support hasn’t been there through 15 games, but that should turn around. So far the Pirates starters have pitched to a 3.41 ERA to start the season which is the sixth best mark in all of Major League Baseball.

Taillon, Ivan Nova and Chad Kuhl have been very good and Gerrit Cole looks to be coming around as well. With Cole turning the corner from last season and the team currently posting three starters with ERA’s under 2.60, there is a lot to like about what this rotation can bring to the table. By comparison, last season the Pirates starters finished with a combined 4.67 ERA, which was the 22nd worst mark in MLB.

It’s early and a small sample size, but if the starters keep giving the team a chance to win every time out, things should turn around in a hurry.

Getting Length

One thing that didn’t happen a season ago was the starters giving the team enough length per game. That really hasn’t been the case this season.

Out of their 15 games played, Pirates starters have gone at least six innings in 15 of those contests. By MLB definition of six innings and three earned runs or fewer, the Pirates have turned in 11 quality starts of their 15 outings.

Had I told you that coming into the season, I am sure you would have taken it. Only Glasnow (twice), Cole on Opening Day and one start by Kuhl failed to produce quality starts.

Last season, the Pirates starters managed to throw just 865.2 innings, which amounts to just over 5.1 innings pitched per game.  That was the 28th fewest innings that any staff pitched in 2016.

This season they are ninth and if you take out Glasnow’s two starts, they are averaging over 6.2 innings pitched per game.

That’s quite the turnaround.

Saving the Pen

We saw last season what not getting innings out of the starters did to the bullpen, which was extremely overworked.

That hasn’t been the case so far this season. In 2016, the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen logged 585 innings, which was the second highest total in the game.  This year they have pitched just 46.1 innings, which is under three per game.

That’s a lot more manageable.

By getting more out of the starters, the Pirates bullpen should be a pretty good one this season. Outside of Antonio Bastardo, they’ve already shown they can be a pretty effective unit when called upon.

The key though is the starters getting six or more innings and so far in 2017, that is exactly what they have been able to do.

Photo Credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.