Since we last analyzed the Pirates, they have gone 14-17. This is their best stretch of games barely, by a half of game. When you look at this team statistically it is really hard to believe that they had this good of a stretch. Their total record at the break is 39-54, which is still a surprise considering the fact they are in in the bottom 6 of every important statistic of hitting, pitching, and fielding. The only thing that is league average is their home run total which puts them 15th in baseball. In terms of analytics the Pirates have been just plain lucky to have such an unaspiring 15 games below .500 record. As usual, let’s take a look at each aspect that determines how a team is performing.
Hitting: The Pirates did pick up in hitting the long ball. At one time, they were as high as 12th in all of baseball, but they have cooled off some to fall back to 15th. Despite all the home runs, their offense overall has been pretty pathetic. In On Base Percentage, Runs per Game, and OPS+, they rank 28th, 28th, and 27th, respectively. As I wrote in the 62 game report, thank God for the Tigers and the A’s. The Pirates strike out a lot. In a nutshell the Pirates take a lot of strikes and swing at a lot of balls. The perfect formula for being a poor hitting team. Two players, that the Pirate press box say are hitting, Ke’Bryan Hayes and Michael Chavis are really not. Both have OPS+’s of 95 or under which means they are below average major league hitters. The loss of Bryan Reynolds is will not help the offense and there is no telling how long he will be out. You hope that Oneil Cruz will start to pick up with the bat but that is not a guarantee. There is not a reason to believe that the hitting is going to improve much, and it is cause for future concern.
Pitching: Again, the stats are skewed a little bit because of some very bad games. In Runs Allowed per Game, Fielding Independent Pitching, and ERA+, they are 25th, 26th, and 26th, respectively. A little better than the offense but not much. The Pirates are still over .500 in one run games at 14-12. The bullpen has done well in these close games. The bullpen has protected leads for multiple innings. The Pirates have lost 16 games this year by 5 runs or more. They have had 3 games this month, where they have given up a total of 48 runs. There is no question, that when this staff goes bad, it really goes bad. The good news is that the rotation has at least 3 arms for the future. Mitch Keller, J. T. Brubaker, and Roansy Contreras have all established themselves as solid mid rotation starters. J. T. Brubaker to me, has been the biggest surprise. Last year this man gave up 28 home runs and had an ERA+ of 80. He has given up 9 home runs so far this year and his ERA+ is 105. Keller’s ERA+ is at 93 which is still below league average but is a lot better than last year’s 69. In the last 13 innings he has given up 1 earned run. There is no question that Contreras has a chance to be a no. 1 starter. Zack Thompson has shown some solid potential over this stretch of games. The bullpen has been holding its own with some new arms. I have been most impressed with Tyler Beede. In his last 20 innings he has given up 5 earned runs and struck out 22 batters. It will be interesting to see if this staff can really build some momentum down the stretch.
Fielding: With my favorite fielding stat, Defensive Efficiency, the Pirates are tied for last with the Colorado Rockies. This is really scary considering the Pirates have one of the best if not the best defensive 3rd basemen in the entire league. It just shows how bad the rest of the players are in the field. The Pirates have committed the most errors 66 in all of baseball. In Defensive Runs Saved they are 23rd in the league. The bottom line is the Pirates have trouble making the routine plays. They also insist on playing infielders in the outfield for no good reason. This part of their game, at least for the moment seems pretty much hopeless, with no improvement in sight.
Management: Well, management is pretty much management, still not trying to win games this year and trying not to make losing games on purpose, too obvious. I will say this, I named 8 players in my view that should have been DFA’d and felt that none of them would be. They did get rid of 4 of them, but there is still a lot of dead wood, that would not be in the Major Leagues, if it were not for the Pirates. Depending on how long Reynolds is out, I think this would be a great time to see if Travis Swaggerty is ready to play Major League baseball. Why not stick him out in centerfield for next 4 to 6 weeks and see what he can do. Jake Marisnick needs to get on a Greyhound Bus. Moves like that make all the sense in the world. I know this team no matter what is done, would not contend for a playoff spot this year. However, giving the right players the opportunity, this team could win around 75 to 80 games. Obviously, this would not help the draft in 2023. This is what the Pirates and other teams in baseball have come down to. It is really sad.