Pirates looking for more length from the starters in upcoming weeks

One thing that would be nice to see this season from the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation is the ability to pitch deeper into ballgames.

So far that has been a slight issue through 10 games for the Pirates, as prior to Jameson Taillon’s complete game Sunday vs. the Cincinnati Reds and a nice seven-inning effort from Ivan Nova on Monday against the Chicago Cubs, only Trevor Williams has pitched at least six innings in the Pirates other eight games.

There are many factors on why pitchers aren’t getting deep into ballgames.


Let’s not sugarcoat it. It’s been miserable out, especially for pitchers.

Throw in the fact that the season is just starting and you often don’t expect much length from your starters this time of the season.

Prior to Monday, Nova gave the Pirates just 10.1 innings in his prior two starts. Steven Brault gave the Bucs five innings in a spot start. Williams gave the Bucs six no-hit innings on a cold day in Detroit and followed that up with 5.1 innings pitched in his next start.

Taillon only went 5.1 in the Pirates’ home-opener and Kuhl’s lasted just 10.2 innings in his two starts.

That’s fine this early in the season, but it is something worth keeping an eye on as you don’t want it to become a trend.

As far as the youngsters in Kuhl, Williams and Brault, you would like to see them take the next step and give the Pirates six or seven innings most nights out.


The game is becoming more specialized, especially when it comes to relief pitching.

With the amount of power arms around the majors right now, managers seem less likely to let that starter go that extra inning unless he’s dominant.

The Pirates are still carrying eight relievers so Clint Hurdle certainly has no problem turning to the bullpen, even if he’s giving the ball to Dovydas Neverauskas or Josh Smoker.

Once it warms up, that’s better for the guys in the pen as well so expect Hurdle to keep calling on them.

Recent trends

The Pirates have actually improved a bit the past few seasons in terms of getting length from their starters.

In 2016 they got an MLB-worst 5.3 innings per game from their starting pitchers.

That number improved to 5.5 last season, which was right in line with the MLB average.

This season, though it is a small sample size, that number is up to 5.9, which is tied for the third highest mark in baseball.


Taillon’s complete game helps that number out this early in the season.

It will be interesting to see how deep into games the starters go in the next few weeks.

Gone are the 203 innings Gerrit Cole gave them last season and the Pirates are already down one potential starter in Joe Musgrove.

If Nova and Taillon can provide at least six innings in most of their starts, I think Williams can do the same and he did that for the most part at times last season.

Kuhl is a wild card in terms of length, but if he can build up to that, Hurdle can go to his pen earlier when the fifth starter is on the mound.

Like I said, nothing to panic about, but you don’t want it becoming a negative trend.

So far Pirates pitchers have only given the team at least six innings three times and only seven twice.

The important thing though is they are winning.

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.