This past off-season the Miami Marlins hired away former Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching guru, Jim Benedict and named him their Vice President of Pitching Development, which is a new position specifically created for the for the former minor league pitcher turned advance scout. Despite being credited hand-in-hand with Ray Searage for their numerous reclamation projects, Benedict’s specific contributions were at times difficult to fully quantify.
With Bendict gone, the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates have seen their pitching devolve from an area of strength to a current weakness. Is this simply due to the loss of Benedict? Or are there other factors at play? Can we draw any conclusions from Benedict’s new team’s performance?
2015 Staff Comparison
Last season the Pirates’ pitching staff was second in both ERA (3.21) and FIP (3.36) while the Marlins were eighth (4.02) and ninth (3.98) in those respective categories. The National League average was 3.90 for ERA and 3.88 for FIP.
FIP and ERA are only part of the story for these pitching staffs. The Pirates under Searage and Benedict became notorious for pitching inside as no team has hit more batters than the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2013. I decided to look at inner third strike totals (for both left- and right-handed hitters) in relation to the team’s FIP. As the Pirates used inside pitching so effectively under Bendeict and Searages’s philosophy, this may give us a good indicator on how much of an effect Bendict’s presence might bring about.
I used each team’s top three pitchers in terms of FIP for both 2015 and 2016. For the Pirates, 2015 looked like this: