When the Pirates acquired David Bednar from the Padres in the Joe Musgrove trade, he was viewed more as a complementary piece than the big ticket. The Pirates acquired four other pieces – all prospects in the three-team swing that also involved the Mets. With Bednar, it may have seemed more like a feel-good story to bring the Mars-native back to his hometown.
The Pirates at the time were relying more on Bendar’s projectability than his brief Major League track record. Though Bednar always put up impressive pitching lines in his minor league career, he was never very highly-regarded as a prospect. Bednar made one appearance in the Padres’ top prospects list as he was #30 on MLB Pipeline’s list for San Diego in 2019. In 17.1 innings with the Padres split between two seasons, Bednar carried a 6.75 ERA/5.22 FIP.
After a great spring training, Bednar immediately was used in late-inning situations in the regular season and found immediate success. In 11 out of Bednar’s first 12 appearances, he kept the opposing team off the scoreboard and limited opposing batters to a .158 batting average and a .562 OPS. Bednar continued his success in the coming weeks and it was becoming clear that the Pirates may have found an anchor of their bullpen.
After his ERA climbed to a season-high 3.96 on June 16, Bednar really kicked it into gear. Through the end of July, Bendar was only scored upon one time after that, and that wasn’t even his best stretch of pitching on the year. Instead, he is in the midst of a nearly untouchable stretch. Since Aug. 12, Bednar has not allowed a single run – a span of 12 games and 13.1 innings, Bednar has kept opponents off the board and for the most part, off the bases. He’s allowed just five hits and and issued just three walks during this stretch. Opponents are slashing .111/.184/.156 against him, and he’s struck out 19 betters. It was during this run on Aug. 21 that Bednar picked up his first career save.
In total, Bednar’s first season pitching for the team he grew up cheering for has been a raging success. He owns a 2.11 ERA/2.71 FIP has 76 punch outs vs. 19 walks and has picked up three wins and the same number of saves, recording the first of his career in both categories in the process. Since Richard Rodriguez was traded to the Braves at the trade deadline, Bednar has shared the closer role with Chris Stratton and has been used in high-leverage situations late in games otherwise.
Bednar had always been regarded for his high-velocity fastball, but the emergence of his curveball this season has played a key role in his success. His three-pitch mix involves his mid-to-upper 90s fastball, the plus curveball and a really good split-fingered fastball that keeps hitters off balance. Another reason for Bednar’s success is his exceptional ability to strand runners, with an 86.3 left on base percentage.
David Bednar, Ridiculous 76mph Curveball. 😯 pic.twitter.com/vkMqR9Jar5
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 1, 2021
With question marks heading into next season regarding the Bucs’ bullpen, Bednar could have the inside track to the Pirates’ closer’s job for 2022 and beyond. Under team control for the foreseeable future, the Pirates and their fans are hoping to hear “Renegade” as Bednar jogs in from the Pirates’ bullpen in the ninth inning of meaningful October baseball games.