Pirates Preview: Rich Hill Set to Make Bucs Debut
Game two of a 162-game schedule is set to take place Saturday afternoon as your Pittsburgh Pirates (1-0) take on the Reds (0-1) at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
The Pirates earned their first opening-day victory under Derek Shelton Thursday, 5-4, thanks to some small ball by Ji-Hwan Bae, Austin Hedges, and Oneil Cruz.
Cruz hit a sac fly after Bae had stolen second base, and Hedges bunted Bae over to third to earn their first victory on the season.
First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. and can be viewed on AT&T Sportsnet, or you can catch it on the radio waves on 93.7 The Fan.
At first pitch, there is a slight chance of precipitation at 13%, but the wind will be howling at 24 mph heading west. Don’t expect the sun to be shining as the forecast calls for cloudy and dreary.
The Pirates will send out lefty, Rich Hill as he makes his regular-season debut for the Pirates.
Hill, the oldest player in the majors at 43, isn’t going to surprise any hitters, but amazingly limits hard contact rather well. Hill ranked in the 79th percentile in hard hit % while with the Red Sox in 2022, despite having a Reagan-era fastball on his hands.
Hill is going to use his curveball (36.5% usage in ’22) and his four-seam (35.6% usage in ’22) off it. Hill will also throw in a few cutters (12.9% usage in ’22), sweepers (10.6% usage in ’22), and changeups (4.2% usage in ’22).
Hill’s success this season will be dependent on his curveball, which had an incredible spin rate on it at 2629 in ’22, which is between 100-200 RPMs above a league-average curve.
Hill’s curve had some good numbers attached to it in ’22, with an opposing batting average of .235 and a slugging percentage of just .377.
The Reds will send fellow lefty Nick Lodolo to combat Hill
Lodolo, unlike Hill, had a fantastic K% and whiff rate in ’22, ranking in the 87th percentile as well as 81st in whiff rate. Also, unlike Hill, Lodolo got hammered a lot, and as a result, he ranked near the bottom with barrel% in the 18th percentile, and in the 26th percentile in hard-hit rate.
Lodolo offers a four-pitch mix with a four-seam (32.1% usage in ’22), curveball (30.6% usage in ’22), sinker (26.9% usage in ’22), and a changeup 10.4% usage in ’22).
Lodolo’s bugaboo pitch last season was his sinker as he gave up five of his 13 homers with that pitch, and opponents hit it to a tune of .290 with a slugging percentage of .510.
Just to get this out there, Lodolo was born on Feb 5, 1998, and Hill was originally drafted in 1999 by the Reds out of high school. Goes to show father time is an odd fellow.
The Pirates originally drafted Lodolo with the 41st pick in 2016 as a high school senior, but the left-hander opted for college at Texas Christian University.
Interesting Batting Match Ups
Wil Myers is 3-23 against Hill with a homer and 12 strikeouts
Andrew McCutchen is 1-7 against Lodolo, with that one hit being a homer. Cutch has also drawn two walks and struck out three times to the youngster.
- McCutchen became the 11th player in Pirates’ history to reach base four times on opening day. In addition, Cutch tied the Pirates record for most walks on opening day with three.
- Cruz became just the sixth player in Statcast history (inception in 2015) to hit a home run off of a pitch that was 103.1 mph or faster.
- Remember 2008? Well, Cruz’s home run Thursday evening became the first homer by a Pirate leadoff hitter on opening day since Nate Mclouth did it in 2008.
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