Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable – Future of the starting rotation

Long term, what do you expect from the team’s main starting pitchers (Duke, Dumatrait, Gorzelanny, Maholm, Snell)?

Mike from Hyzdu Headquarters
When this season first started, I definitely thought that things would go much differently with the starting rotation. Instead the rotation has imploded. Here is what I think may be in store for them.
Ian Snell – Easily the biggest disappointment of the staff. Coming over a good year and the new contract it looked like things would be looking up for him. Instead he has regressed this season and I really don’t know what he’ll do in the future. My best guess is that Ian will never be a true ace, but will probably be our excuse for one.
Tom Gorzelanny – Again another disappointment. I really think that he was hurt this year, but never let on to that. So we don’t know if it is injuries or something else that has made him fall back this year. Whatever the problem, his future right now is so murky; I don’t even know what is in store for him. It really is a huge question mark.
Phil Dumatrait – He is the one guy on the list who was not thought of in spring training as being in the rotation. I must say he did surprise me, as his track record was spotty coming into the season. He has seemingly been hurt more than he has been healthy this year, so that hurts any growth or maturation he might have this year at least. I really do not see him being anything more than a back end of the rotation guy, if he stays in the rotation. His health record, so far at least, scares me.
Zach Duke – The one time hot prospect has had a slight rebound this year. Considering he was just abysmal last year, now he is slightly better than bad. When I look down the line at what Duke may accomplish, it does not look good. He never seems to attack hitters, and does not have outstanding stuff. I think he is going to have a mixed career with the Bucs. At some point everyone will say that he is a lost cause, as he probably will not be able to run up a good run of starts.
Paul Maholm – Maholm is the one pitcher in the rotation that has done a decent job this season. He lasts past the fifth some of the time and has the only complete game for the club. I think he will settle in as a good middle of the rotation guy, who will eat up innings for you. It won’t be anything flashy at all, but he’ll just be a solid type of guy in that middle of the rotation.
That is may take on the rotation. We have two question marks in Dumatrait and Gorzelanny, two riddles in Snell and Duke, and one guy that may be alright in Maholm. That really does not bode well for the future. I think the new priority for the club is finding more and more pitching. We need depth more than anything right now. Until this rotation is solidified, we will continue to stay in rebuilding mode.
Matt Bandi from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.
I think the pitcher we have seen in 2008 is about what we can expect from Zach Duke. A decent back of the rotation guy, he will generally give us a chance to win when he gets the ball. He simply does not have the stuff to improve much more. Duke will need to keep his walk and home run numbers down, and he should be able to post a consistent ERA in the 4.50 Ė 5.00 range.
Phil Dumatrait should provide similar production to Duke in the future. He will strike out more batters, so there is probably a bit more potential for improvement. He must decrease his walk rate if he is to make any strides. It was a great move by Neal Huntington to pick him up off waivers, but we probably canít expect him to be more than a middle of the rotation starter.
Every year in spring training, we hear reports of a player or two who show up in great shape, determined to impress some folks. I think Tom Gorzelanny may be that player in 2009. He has been terrible this season, something many of us expected after he was abused by Jim Tracy. When he was sent to Triple-A, Huntington seemed to imply that the team was not enamored with Gorzoís work ethic. I think the combination of a healthy, rested arm and a positive response to managementís challenge will have Gorzelanny pitching like a top of the rotation guy again next year.
The starter that I can never get a read on is Paul Maholm. Sometimes he goes to the mound and breezes through a game without a problem. Those flashes of dominance always get me daydreaming about what kind of pitcher he could be. But he never seems able to develop the consistency he needs to be a top starter. He has improved that consistency this season, so maybe he is turning the corner as a pitcher.
Ian Snellís 2008 season is likely an outlier, and he should still be a top of the rotation pitcher in the long run. His command has been terrible this season, which has led to inefficient pitch counts and huge walk numbers. I expect that to improve as this season winds down and going into next year. Iím guessing his arm issues have played a part in those struggles. The key for Snell will be his ability to avoid the long ball, something he has done well the past two years. His mental state will also play a part, though I canít figure out exactly what his goal should be. This season, he has struggled despite displaying a bit more maturity than in the past. Last year, he seemed to be on an emotional rollercoaster, yet had a career season. He needs to find the ideal balance between that fire and a growing maturity.
This is a pretty optimistic look at a rotation that has been historically bad this year. The team clearly needs a true ace and much better depth after the top five. But I donít think all is lost just yet.


3 Responses to “Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable – Future of the starting rotation”

  1. Yonah Shapiro Says:

    It’s funny that you mention the need of an ace to help guide the rotation, when we easily had one last season and gave him up just because he was having a bad season too: Oliver Perez

  2. BSpar Says:

    Ian always had potential, more than most, he just needs to throw inside but he refuses to do that.
    He won’t do it, because he is a head case. It really makes me ill most of the time. He gets all sulky and pouting, like people are suppose to feel sorry for him as if he is a child.
    I don’t know if the Mets don’t have the right idea on him, relief.

  3. BSpar Says:

    BTW his goal should be to throw inside, 94% of the time.

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