First Pitch: The Left-Handed Relief Situation

Jon Heyman reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking to shore up their catching situation, and add left-handed relief help. The catching situation would make sense if we’re talking about adding depth behind Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry. But the left-handed relief situation doesn’t make much sense.

The Pirates have Daniel Moskos, Tony Watson, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Doug Slaten as the available left-handers in camp. Slaten and Reyes are non-roster invitees, and haven’t done much to establish themselves as strong options. The top options seem to be Moskos and Watson, with Watson entering camp as the favorite.

Looking at the results with Moskos and Watson, you have to wonder why the Pirates would be looking for outside help.

Watson has struggled this spring, putting up a 7.71 ERA in seven innings of work, along with a 2:1 K/BB ratio. Kristy wrote the other day about how Watson was focused on consistency, and that he was working on some new pitches this spring.

If you’re going on spring training results, then Watson wouldn’t make a good choice for the left-handed relief role. However, here’s where things get tricky. If you’re going on spring training results, Daniel Moskos hasn’t allowed an earned run in 6.2 innings of work, with a 5:4 K/BB ratio. The walks aren’t good, although Moskos has only allowed one in his last three outings, after three in his first three outings.

The problem with going off of spring training numbers in either case is that it’s a small sample size.

We could use the 2011 seasons as a bigger sample size. Watson had a 3.95 ERA in 41 innings last year, along with an 8.1 K/9 and a 4.4 BB/9 ratio. The walks were a bit high, but overall Watson was strong. You could make the argument that he wasn’t used properly, being placed in long relief when he should have been the primary left-hander.

Moskos had a 2.96 ERA in 24.1 innings last year. The overall results were good, although his 4.1 K/9 ratio and 3.3 BB/9 ratio weren’t strong numbers.

If you’re looking at the past results, Watson’s 2011 season should be enough to give him the shot in 2012. Moskos had good overall results, but his secondary numbers don’t suggest a repeat of those stats.

If you’re focused on spring training numbers, Watson has disappointed, while Moskos has done well.

The problem is that the Pirates don’t have a reliever with good past results and good spring training results. But should they be looking for a left-handed reliever to replace Watson and Moskos?

Looking at the available players, the two guys who intrigue me are Mike Gonzalez and Hong-Chih Kuo. Kuo was recently released by the Seattle Mariners after off-season surgery. He’s dealt with a lot of injuries, and doesn’t look like a sure bet. He would be more of a depth addition. Gonzalez is coming off a bad year split between Baltimore and Texas, and he turns 34 in May. He’s not exactly a guaranteed upgrade either.

If the addition of a left-handed reliever is a depth move, it wouldn’t be a bad thing. But I’m not sure that there’s someone on the market right now who could be an upgrade over Watson. If the Pirates are looking to fill the position, Watson’s 2011 numbers should be enough. And if the focus is on the small sample size of spring training numbers, then Moskos has put up some good results so far.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost 8-6 to the Rays. Game story here.

**The Pirates signed five players from Colombia.

**Erik Bedard was named the opening day starter.

**Kevin Creagh breaks down the Forbes Most Valuable Franchise rankings.

**Prospect Notebook: Tim Alderson touched 93 MPH today.

**Pirates Notebook: Yamaico Navarro is looking to win a spot on the bench.

**Baseball America ranked the Pirates’ farm system 11th overall. Subscribers can read their report on the system here.

**ESPN continued their top 500 MLB players countdown with players number 301-350 today. Jose Tabata was rated 345th. Notice anything a little off on Tabata’s profile? Here is the complete list of Pirates who have been ranked.

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.
  • salempirate

    IMO Watson did very well in his 1st season. He was thrown into all kinds of situations and survived. As you say, Moskos doesn’t seem to be well thought of by the F.O. Perhaps for all concerned, Moskos might be best served  with a trade.

    • Lee Young

      wtmiller……I believe I read somewhere (here or the PG?) that Moskos has his slider back. Perhaps Tim can confirm?

      I’ve always liked Moskos and am rooting for him. It’s a shame that a good kid like that gets ‘painted’ with the Wieters’ brush.

      • wtmiller

        I’ve read that repeatedly over the last three years, the slider and the mid-90s FB.  Never seen any evidence of it.

        I’d certainly like to see him succeed.

        • Tim Williams

          I saw the mid-90s fastball/slider combo at the end of the year in 2010. In fact, he was touching 97. He didn’t have that in the first half of the year. I didn’t see it in 2011.

      • Tim Williams

        Kristy would have to confirm. I saw Moskos last week, but I was in the camera well. Hard to get a good read from that angle.

  • duckwoes

    Perhaps ESPN has some inside information on a real birthdate for Jose Tabata???  Or maybe he’s not Jose Tabata at all!?! His real name is actually Fausto Carmona, haha!!   

  • wtmiller

    Can’t say I agree about not needing LH relief help.  I don’t care much about spring numbers.  Watson is still a good option, but I haven’t been impressed with anything I’ve seen of Moskos the last couple years.  I’ve never seen the reputed mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider.  What I’ve seen is a low-90s fastball, a slider that’s just a chase pitch, and below average command that’s not improving.  And Slaten and Reyes should not be options under any circumstances whatsoever.