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Jordy Mercer And The Trouble With A 7 Man Bullpen

If this was a hit by Mercer, it probably wasn't against a RHP. Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

If this was a hit by Mercer, it probably wasn’t against a RHP.
Photo by Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports

First, let me say that Jordy Mercer is one of my favorite Pirates. From all signs he’s a great person. He is very involved in all the Pirates charities and his character is notable in interviews and his team first attitude on the field. He also has taken his long and lanky frame, normally a detriment for playing SS and made himself into a slightly above average defensive shortstop with game preparation and hard work.

All that being said Jordy Mercer is not a great hitter. He’s not really even a good hitter. He’s a passable hitter for a shortstop. If he played 2B or 3B his bat wouldn’t be good enough, but for SS it’s fine and would be fine for many teams.

The thing with Mercer that makes him more frustrating than other players is his platoon splits. Mercer is terrible against RH pitching and is amazing against LH pitching.

His career line against RHP in 914 plate appearances is .237/.289/.353 for an OPS of .642

His career line against LHP in 269 plate appearances is .318/.363/.494 for an OPS of .857

The difference in OPS is .215 means he’s Cutch against LHPs and Gerrit Cole against RHPs. How good he is against LHP’s is making it hard for fans to see how bad he is against the other 80% of the pitchers.

For reference here’s the rest of our regulars’ career OPS splits:

Player RHP LHP Difference
Pedro .794 .578 .216
Hart .787 .857 .070
Marte .742 .983 .241
Cutch .856 .977 .121
Walker .799 .656 .143
Harrison .728 .743 .015

The point with Mercer’s poor performance against RHPs made itself very apparent against the Brewers on June 9th.

Look at the following sequence:


Mercer and his .289 OBP against RHPs came up in a very critical situation and not surprisingly he got out.

Now what if we had a hitter that was much better than Mercer against RHP’s who could come in and pinch hit for Mercer in these situations? Well we do. No I’m not talking about Kang, who is better, but needs to start at 2B, 3B and SS. I’m talking about Jaff Decker, who’s currently in AAA.

If Decker is really good at one thing it’s getting on base against RHP’s. His OBP in AAA against RHP’s the last two years is .371 and .422, respectively. He has a great eye and can foul off a lot of pitches to draw a walk.

In Tuesday’s situation Decker would have been an obvious pinch hitter for Mercer and would have given the Pirates a better chance of not making an out. Why don’t the Pirates have a LH hitting pinch hitter like Decker ready for situation like this ? The problem is the 7 man bullpen.

You could argue that Hart should be DFAed or that Tabata should be sent down, but in reality the seven man bullpen is the problem. The Pirates have too many players in our bullpen that are out of options or that are being used as insurance, which in turn limits the Pirates on our bench.

With the rotation hitting on all cylinders right now, Vance Worley is more than ready to absorb some long relief inning. Or give guys like Watson and Hughes two innings when they only throw 8 pitches in their inning.

No 25 man roster is perfect, but our position players are a LH pinch hitter away from being very solid. It might have gotten us another win against the hated Brewers and it could definitely come into play as the playoff picture crystallizes further. Whether it’s internally or via a trade, the Pirates will most assuredly be searching for options.

About Michael Bradley (40 Articles)
Michael is a Pirates contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh. Michael is former submarine officer and Naval Academy grad. He now runs a small consulting firm and does veteran related job fairs. He is a SABR member and regularly attends Altoona Curve games to scout the Pirate prospects.
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