When I last looked at the Pirates, they were 20-9 and had one of the best records in baseball. Since then, they’ve gone 12-20 to stand at 32-29 and are in 2nd place, one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers, but tied in the loss column. Most of the Pirate woes have been blamed on the offense, but as you will see their entire game as gone in decline. In the categories OBP, Runs per Game, and OPS+ the Pirates went from 3rd, 5th, and 4th, respectively, to 12th, 16th and 14th. On the pitching side of the ledger, Runs per Game Against, ERA+, and FIP the Pirates fell from 4th, 4th, and 6th, to 12th, 12th, and 14th. Even their Defense Efficiency Rating, which was not that great to begin with, fell from 17th to 23rd. This has been a team effort to say the least. However, there have been some individuals that have contributed to the Pirates’ decline more than others.
Ji Hwan Bae despite all the hype in the broadcast booth is a below average hitter and a negative fielder, especially on the infield. Defensively his best position is centerfield. He is only 23 and I think he needs to stay on the Major League club, but he will need to improve his game. Ke’Bryan Hayes, even though he improved somewhat over this 32 game stretch, continues to be a well below average hitter. Granted he is sensational in the field, but he is playing a hitting position. He takes pitches that are right down the middle of the plate. If he could correct that problem, there may be some hope. Carlos Santana has done a solid job at first base, but he has hit only 3 home runs and has an OPS+ of only 85. Last year he hit 19 home runs, but it does not seem like he will come close to that number this year. Austin Hedges is slugging .216, has an OPS+ of 28, and quite frankly has not been that great behind the plate, with several catcher interference calls that always seems to lead to runs.
On the pitching side of the ball, all the starters are around average or above average at run prevention except for Roansy Contreras. Last year he looked so good, with an ERA of 3.79 and an ERA+ of 107. This year he seems to be getting more and more lost with every start. Add to that, Mitch Keller’s last 3 starts have been getting worse and worse. Someway, somehow these two have to turn it around or this is going to be one long summer. The bullpen is by far the strongest part of this team but even they have had some disastrous performances. In my view, this will be the biggest challenge for the Pirate management team, to get this staff back on track, particularly the starters.
What will the next 30 games bring for the Pirates? That is just one of many questions that will get answered over the next 30 to 35 days. Will management bring up some of the young players once that magical date in June passes? I admit, I don’t know what that date is and don’t want to know, it disgusts me so much. Will management make any trades to gives some immediate help to this team? Their needs are obvious. They need a hitter in the outfield. They need to find some offense at 3rd and catcher. If they are going to make it to game 90 and still be in contention for the division title, the three young pitchers, Keller, Contreras, and Ortiz all need to find themselves and start pitching the way they were before. The injuries to Cruz and Choi have hurt the Pirates, especially the one to Cruz. In fact, I wrote if Cruz gets hurt all bets are off for this team trying to contend. They have proved me wrong so far. However, if this team does not get some help pretty soon from down on the farm or via trade, then these next 30 games will be worse than just what has passed.