By Jason Shetler
On Thursday, the Pirates brought in a couple of left-handed arms to compete for a spot in the bullpen. One is Cory Luebke and the other is Eric O’Flaherty. Luebke hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2012, but O’Flaherty has stayed relatively healthy for the most part. In 2015, O’Flaherty pitched for the Oakland A’s and New York Mets, and had an ERA of 8.10 in 41 combined appearances. While the ERA gives the perception that he’s a bad reliever, here are some things to consider on why the signing of O’Flaherty is better than you might think.
Although the ERA was certainly very high for O’Flaherty last season, the Fielding Independent Pitching was at 4.60. That figure is mediocre, but looks much better if you compare that to the ERA. He also dealt with extreme bad luck, as he had a .388 BABIP, which is definitely unsustainable for a pitcher. There certainly is a track record however with O’Flaherty. From 2009 to 2014, he posted a 2.12 ERA along with an ERA+ of 184, so he wasn’t just a good reliever in those six years, he was an excellent reliever in that span. For much of his career, O’Flaherty has been a terrific groundball pitcher. Despite the poor season in 2015, he put up the second best groundball rate of his career at 58% with only 2012 being his better year at 66%. Another thing that stands out last year with O’Flaherty was his 53.8% chase rate, which was actually 11% better than in 2014.
Last season, O’Flaherty was owed $5.5 million. Entering 2016, the Pirates will have him on a minor league deal for just the league minimum. Even if O’Flaherty doesn’t pan out, he can just simply be cut loose since there’s really no financial risk, but he’s able to be the reliever he was in the six seasons prior to 2015, then the signing could end up being one of the best “under the radar” moves of this offseason.