By Jason Shetler
This past offseason was certainly interesting for A.J. Schugel. Back in December, the Arizona Diamondbacks won the Zack Greinke sweepstakes. In order to make room on the 40-man roster for Greinke, the Dbacks designated Schugel for assignment. He was then claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners, but was designated again in January.
The Pirates decided to take a flier on Schugel, claiming him from the Mariners. However, he was DFA’d for a third time in February after the Bucs had obtained Jesse Biddle, who is no longer in the organization. Schugel cleared waivers, and was outrighted to AAA Indianapolis. Because of the Pirates heavy bullpen usage in April, they decided to go with an extra reliever/short bench. Schugel received the call up, and was added to the 40-man following the designation and eventual release of Michael Morse.
Schugel started off slow in both April and May, posting a combined 4.73 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP. While June was a really bad month for the Pirates as a whole, Schugel was one of the few positives, as he put up a 2.45 ERA along with a WHIP of 0.60 and holding opposing batters to a .143 average in ten appearances. The month of June has now helped Schugel become an above average reliever this season with an ERA+ of 111. His control numbers have remained excellent with a 1.6 BB/9, which is definitely contributed to a solid 2.98 Fielding Independent Pitching. Schugel’s effectiveness has hinged on throwing an outstanding changeup. As a matter of fact, Pitch f/x Pitch Values, a metric used by FanGraphs, rates Schugel’s changeup as second best among all MLB relievers. Not only is it encouraging to see Schugel feel more comfortable, but he’s now providing help to a Pirates bullpen that needs as much as it can get.