The Pirates announce the signing of Joe Beimel today, giving the organization a decent left-handed reliever since they traded Javier Lopez at this past summer’s trade deadline to the eventual World Series champs Giants. Beimel was originally drafted by the Pirates out of Pittsburgh-based Duquesne University (shout-out to former RotoGraphs author and friend Dan Budreika), debuting with Pittsburgh in 2001. As reported by MLB Trade Rumors, Beimel had several Major League offers and one two-year offer, but he chose to return to Pittsburgh for a minor league deal. He’s expected to make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster.
Since his debut with the Pirates, Beimel has traveled from team to team as a lefty specialist, enjoying his greatest stretch of success with the Dodgers in 2006-2008 when he held all batters to a .261/.324/.359 line with a 3.04 ERA, allowing only eight home runs in 186.1 innings spread over three years. During one of his best stretches, Beimel actually won a fan vote for a Dodgers bobblehead night, something I personally remember very fondly.
More recently, Beimel has been somewhat of a different pitcher but has still found a key role with the Nationals and the Rockies. During his Dodger days, Beimel employed his fastball almost exclusively on over 80% of his pitches. In 2009 and 2010 with the Nats and Rockies, Beimel decreased his fastball usage to less than 70%, using his curveball (about 20%) and changeup (10%) more often than before. Here’s a look at the change in his pitch type usage (or see his player page). I decided to group his sliders and curve balls as breaking balls:
The adjustment came coincidentally at a time when Beimel changed from a ground-ball pitcher into more of a fly-ball pitcher. Take a look at some of Beimel’s batted-ball stats in the past four years:
In those last two years with the Dodgers, Beimel appeared in 154(!) games, allowing only one home run in 116.1 innings. That minuscule home-run rate was not going to be sustained when Beimel ended up at Coors Field, but he still held a solid home-run rate considering the ballpark he was pitching in.
Beimel’s primary role, as has been for much of his career, will be to contain left-handed hitting. Check out his 2010 platoon splits:
Against RHH: .329/.388/.474, 2.84 K/9, 3.79 BB/9, 0.95 HR/9, 5.08 FIP, 5.36 xFIP
Against LHH: .221/.275/.379, 5.19 K/9, 2.52 BB/9, 1.04 HR/9, 4.23 FIP, 4.62 xFIP
For the Rockies, they chose to go young and let the 33-year-old Beimel go. For the Pirates, Beimel brings much-needed left-handed help to what could turn out to be, dare I say it, a pretty decent bullpen. In addition to the pitch-to-contact lefty, the Bucs added relief help in the form of Jose Veras, Fernando Nieve, and Aaron Thompson to a pen that already has Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, and Chris Resop.
As individuals, most bullpen arms provide less-than-stellar value to a club, but when accrued and utilized correctly, a bullpen can be crucial for a team that will find late-inning leads scarce. Beimel’s pitch-to-contact tendencies and his less-then-overpowering fastball fits the profile of a LOOGY being trotted out on a nightly basis. If used opportunistically by Clint Hurdle, the Bucs’ bullpen should be improved on a roster that needs improvement in all departments.