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Perrotto: Bailey Falter Rapidly Becoming a Different Pitcher



Pittsburgh Pirates, Bailey Falter

PITTSBURGH – Bailey Falter’s career seemed to be, ahem, faltering.

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist.

The Pittsburgh Pirates left-hander struggled throughout much of spring training, allowing 14 runs in 16 innings. Nevertheless, he won a spot in the starting rotation to begin the season.

That decision made little sense when the Pirates left Bradenton, Fla. It became even more puzzling the first inning of Falter’s first regular-season start on March 31 when he gave up a grand slam to the Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm Jr. during the first inning in Miami.

It was expected that Falter would be on a short leash with his rotation spot when the season began. The leash seemed to be shortening just five batters into the season.

However, Falter has turned his season around in dramatic fashion in less than a month. He has gone from a candidate to be designated for assignment to a candidate to pitch in this year’s All-Star Game.

Since the second inning of his season debut, Falter has notched a 1.73 ERA in 26 innings while holding opponents to a .154 batting average.

Falter was outstanding Tuesday night in helping the Pirates to a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park. Falter took a shutout into the eighth inning before giving up a leadoff home run to Gary Sanchez and being lifted.

Falter allowed one run and three hits while striking out eight – which matched a career-high – and walking two.

The Pirates point to a simple reason for Falter’s success – throwing his fastball more.

“Fastball execution. I think that’s been the biggest thing,” manager Derek Shelton said. “No. 1 fastball execution and No. 2 is just attack. He’s in attack mode. He’s going after people. I think we’ve really seen that since probably the second inning of the year that he pitched. The first two innings of the year weren’t very clean, but he stayed in attack mode. I think we’re seeing the results of that.”

The Brewers swung and missed 13 times against Falter’s four-seamer.

Falter has thrown his four-seam 52.9% of the time over his first five starts of the season. That is up from 44.4% last year during a season in which he was traded from the Phillies to the Pirates on Aug. 1 after going 0-7 for Philadelphia.

“Simplifying things,” Falter said. “Kind of shied away of being the pitcher that got me to the big leagues in the first place. Just try to go back to that. So far, it’s been doing really well for me.”

So why did Falter begin to lose his way in 2021 when he made his major-league debut with the Phillies?

“Just shied from the fastball a little bit. I feel like it was getting hit around a little too much,” Falter said. “Started mixing in some more changeups and off speeds and then just wasn’t really going my way. Scratched the changeup and we’ve just been riding off the fastball for right now.”

Falter had an 8-12 record and a 4.56 ERA in four seasons with the Phillies. In 2024, he is 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in five starts.

Considering his fastball averages 91.0 mph, it is hard to classify Falter as a power pitcher. However, he is no longer a junk baller trying to fool hitters like he was with the Phillies.

“I don’t know what the definition of power pitcher is,” Shelton said. “If you look it up it’s probably going to say it’s guys who throw 95 or above. But the ability to pitch with the fastball would be more of what I would say.”

Falter is doing just that. The best way to define him is effective.

John Perrotto is a columnist for Pittsburgh Baseball Now and has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates and MLB since 1988.

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