First Pitch: How Short Should Correia’s Leash Be?

At the start of the year, Kevin Correia was a great pitcher for the Pirates to have. He could start in the event of an injury to the rotation. He could pitch out of the bullpen as a long reliever, or in shorter roles. And he’s had the tendency to put together a few great starts at times, which means that if the Pirates did have to call on him, there’s a chance they could get the version that appeared most frequently in the first half of the 2011 season.

That’s exactly what happened. The Pirates lost A.J. Burnett to an injury, and Charlie Morton started the year on the disabled list. That moved Correia to the rotation. An injury to Jeff Karstens has kept Correia in the rotation. Of course, his performance hasn’t done much to give him the boot, at least not until tonight. In his first four starts of the season, Correia combined for a 2.42 ERA in 22.1 innings, going six innings in his first three starts. Tonight wasn’t as good, allowing five runs on nine hits in seven innings, with two homers.

You don’t want to pull a guy after just one bad start, but in Correia’s case, how long do you give him? He doesn’t have a long term future with the Pirates. He’s a free agent after the season. He wouldn’t have much trade value, as he’s a fourth or fifth starter at best, and likely seen as a sixth starter/bullpen option for most teams. So there’s no long term benefit to starting him, and there’s no trade value to kill.

At the beginning of the year, I thought the Pirates had pretty good depth out of Indianapolis, with Brad Lincoln, Rudy Owens, and Jeff Locke all looking good in Spring Training. But you don’t want to call on those guys out of camp, especially not Owens and Locke, who could have benefitted from some time in Triple-A to show their stuff was legit.

Lincoln is already up in the majors. He made two starts in Indianapolis, with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings, along with a 9:0 K/BB ratio. So far in the majors he has a 0.87 ERA in 10.1 innings, along with a 11:5 K/BB ratio. His pitches have looked sharp, and he’s been working more in the mid-90s.

I talked about Owens two days ago. In five starts this year he has a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings, with a 6.9 K/9 and a 0.5 BB/9 ratio. He looks more like the pitcher we saw in 2009 and 2010, and less like the 2011 version. Jeff Locke is also having a good year, with a 2.89 ERA in 28 innings, along with a 7.4 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9 ratio.

The Pirates have three young starters who look ready for the majors. Brad Lincoln will have five years of control remaining after this season. Rudy Owens doesn’t have any service time, and the season is to the point where the Pirates will have him under control for six years beyond the 2012 season. Jeff Locke needs to be down for five more days before the Pirates get an extra year of control, retaining his rights through the 2018 season.

Meanwhile, Correia is only under control through the 2012 season. So how short is the leash? At what point do the Pirates turn to one of the guys who could be here for the long haul if they put up strong major league numbers? The Pirates should take the first excuse available to swap out a guy who has no future with the team, and replace him with one of the three guys who do have a future. I don’t think you can do that after one start, but if Correia follows this up with another bad start, I think you have to consider making the call.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost to the Reds 6-1. Game story here.

**A Pitch F/X preview of the Cincinnati Reds probable starters.

**Prospect Watch: Jameson Taillon goes six innings again, and Willy Garcia homers for the third time in four games.

**Last night I talked about how Justin Wilson’s control holds him back. Tonight he struggled with 95 pitches through four innings, with five runs on six hits. Wilson walked three and struck out three.

**A live report of Jameson Taillon’s start, by Terry Mathews.

**Kevin Creagh takes a look at the viability of an International Draft.

**The bench role is an adjustment for Josh Harrison.

**Baseball America had Alen Hanson on their latest hot sheet. Plus, comments on Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole.

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About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • Lee Young

    I still wish that Lincoln was starting and Correia in the pen.

  • CWPCWP

    His leash should be extremely short.  Lincoln should have his spot in the rotation right now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Smalley/100001279428589 Andrew Smalley

    He shouldn’t be pitching any further in a Starting capacity. Tim makes mention of his ERA, but, for some reason, leaves out the more important numbers:  He’s striking out 3.68 batters per nine and BB’ing 2.76.  Those peripherals are worse than Zach Duke at his lowest.  Addtionally, he is benefiting from batters having a .214 BABIP against him, even with the bloated (and surely a result of SSS) 58% ground ball rate he has had through his first 4-5 starts.

    He’s not fooling any batters, he’s not striking them out, and he’s been homer-prone.  He hasn’t been ‘good up until last night’, he’s been lucky.  You wouldn’t be pulling him after ‘just one start’, you’d be pulling him because he isn’t a major league starting pitcher anymore.  

    We can’t use ERA to judge a SP 5 games into the season, if at all, in my opinion.  We must look deeper into his numbers to determine whether the absence of a bunch of runs being scored against him are luck, skill, or a mix.  In Correia’s case, it’s clearly been luck.  

    We should yank him before it runs out.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      I wasn’t really looking to dig in to Correia’s numbers, since there’s nothing ground breaking there. I could have pointed out his strikeout numbers, but I felt that mentioning his role as a 4th/5th starter, or a 6th/bullpen guy on most teams, would suffice.

      I think you could make an argument that it wasn’t total luck with Correia, as much as it was him pitching three games on the road. He’s given up three homers on the year, all at home. He doesn’t really fit in to PNC Park, since he’s a right handed fly ball pitcher. As for the luck aspect, there has been some for Correia, but there has also been luck for the other Pirates’ starters. End of the day, Correia’s xFIP is 4.19. I think he’s ultimately lower than that, which is why I summed up Correia with this:


      You don’t want to pull a guy after just one bad start, but in Correia’s case, how long do you give him? He doesn’t have a long term future with the Pirates. He’s a free agent after the season. He wouldn’t have much trade value, as he’s a fourth or fifth starter at best, and likely seen as a sixth starter/bullpen option for most teams. So there’s no long term benefit to starting him, and there’s no trade value to kill.”The main focus of the article was pointing out that the Pirates have options with better upside, and that those options are ready for the majors. Therefore, the Pirates shouldn’t give much time to a guy who doesn’t profile as a strong starting option, and who has no future with the team.

  • szielinski

    Correia should remain a starting pitcher until it makes baseball sense to promote one of Lincoln, Owens, Locke or Wilson to his spot or until Karstens returns.

    Lincoln will not sit near to the mid-90s if he’s a starter.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/M2I47K4WQXU4SE6YXW4PAUNUMU Tom

    VTtom
    I’m ready for a change. I thought Correia’s outing last Sunday in Atlanta was pretty shaky. I believe he was pulled in the fifth and had command issues. I think his next scheduled start is versus Strasburg.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Richard-YaZhynka/100000448392567 Richard Ya’Zhynka

    Last night was his second straight below average start. In his previous start, he went 4.1 innings, walked five, and had zero strikeouts. His leash should be no longer than one more start, but I wouldn’t complain if Lincoln replaced him right now. He has shown that he is ready.