Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates Shark Tank Has Been Restored by a Pair of Johns

In 2013 the Pirates had one of the best bullpens in baseball. Their 2.89 ERA was the 3rd best in the league. Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli were awesome at holding late leads. The Bucs were 80-3 last season when leading after 8 innings. The Pirates’ pen was a devastating unit that earned the nickname the “Shark Tank”. But bullpens are a notoriously volatile component of a baseball team. In 2014 the Shark Tank lost its bite. They blew more 9th inning leads in the first month of the season than they did in all of 2013. The bullpen woes continued all the way thru mid-August. It looked as if this was going to be the achilles heel that would wreck the Pirates season.
Things began to change for the better after the calendar flipped over to September. The Pirates have won 10 of their last 12 games. They haven’t blown a save since August 26th. It appears the Pirates have finally found some power arms that manager Clint Hurdle can trust to bridge the innings between the starting pitchers and Tony Watson in the 8th inning. John Axford was acquired off of waivers from the Cleveland Indians on August 14th. Axford has allowed just 2 earned runs while striking out 12 in 9.2 innings. The other key addition was the August 31st callup of John Holdzkom. Holdzkom is a terrific story. A few months ago he was pitching in Independent ball. Now he is pitching out of the bullpen for a team in a playoff race. And he has been dominate. In 6 innings of work Holdzkom has allowed just 1 hit, 1 walk, and has rung up 11 strikeouts. Despite his inexperience Hurdle has not been afraid to use him with the game on the line. Holdzkom was given an opportunity to close in just his second major league game. He successfully converted that save opportunity. He already has earned 3 Holds. Holdzkom and Axford have been the key the the Pirates Shark Tank getting its bite back.

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