The last time I wrote about the Pirates I said they would contend for the division title in 2023. I did say a few things would have to happen for me to continue to believe that. Two of them have happened already. Kevin Newman is off the team. They have not one but two first baseman. None of the moves are earth shattering, but they made the team much better and gave more potential to the bullpen. Let us look at the new Pirates.
The Pirates acquired Dauri Moreta from the Reds when they traded Newman. At first glance it appears that the Pirates may have gotten another stiff. For the entire season Moreta had an ERA of 5.40. However, most of that was due to a horrible May. He was sent down to the minors and when he came back in mid-June he obviously found something. His last 20 appearances he had one bad outing where he gave up 4 runs. In the other 19 outings he pitched 23 innings, gave up 4 runs, 14 hits, walked 6, and struck out 22. If he can continue something like that into 2023, we may have found Dwayne Underwood Junior’s replacement. The fact that we got anything for Newman is pretty remarkable.
The Pirates signed a free agent and made a trade to shore up first base. They acquired Ji-Man Choi from the Rays and signed Carlos Santana to a one year deal for 6 plus million. Led by Michael Chavis and Yoshi Tsutsugo the Pirates had the worst WAR at first base, in the entire major leagues at -4. Both Choi and Santana had WARs of 1.2, not great but huge upgrades from what was there. For the first time in a long time the Pirates are going to have real first basemen. Choi is an average fielder, while Santana is an above average fielder. Santana gives added flexibility in that he is a switch hitter. His overall OPS+ is 100 which is league average, but his OPS+ against lefties was 124. They should be a very good tandem at the position, and both have experience at DH. Santana will be turning 37 but the Pirates are experts at giving players rest and this time they will have to.
I would say the off season has started nicely for the Pirates but there is a long way to go. They still need a catcher and a centerfielder if they are going to contend. Any pitching additions should help, as we all know, you cannot have too much pitching. The winter meetings are coming up and the Rule 5 draft. Hopefully the Pirates can maintain this momentum and get some more help to win the division. Yeah, baby.
The 2022 Major League Baseball season is officially over with the Houston Astros winning the World Series in 6 games. The only good thing was that Dusty Baker got that World Series Ring. The Astros proved once again that good pitching will shut down good hitting. The 4th and 5h games were the pivotal games, especially the 4th game when the Astros no hit the Phillies. I think it gave them the phycological edge. Winning the tight game 5 with some spectacular defense sealed the deal. The Pirates 2022 season ended on opening day. This is the season where management had 2 goals, get a top draft choice and keep player control until 2028. There was no question that the Pirates fielded a team that was guaranteed to lose a lot of games and then made in game decisions to cement loses. This was a team that lost games on purpose, and we will prove that point later. First let us look at what the Pirates could have done during the 2022 season and the most likely result.
The Pirates could have decided to put the best team on the field and win as many games as possible, with those new young players. We will even give them a break and say that Roberto Perez does not get hurt and plays the entire season. Oneil Cruz and Rudolfo Castro would have played full seasons. There would have been other young players who would have played a lot more games. If the Pirates had gone all out and tried to win as many games as possible this year, they probably would have come close to playing .500 ball, winning between 75 and 83 games. The bullpen was too thin, and the starting pitching was not good enough to do much better than that. They would have been drafting in the middle of the pack, unless they got extremely lucky in the lottery. The young players would have become free agents in 2027. We all know the Pirates did not do that; therefore they have control of these players until 2028. These players did gain considerable major league experience, but not enough to move up their free agency. Here is what the Pirates did do.
It has been hard for many people to get their head around the fact that the Pirates did exactly what they wanted to do in 2022, lose baseball games. They lost baseball games on purpose. As much I find this repulsive, I blame this on the MLB system, rather on the Pirates. The Pirates just played the game that MLB has set up and should reap the rewards with some pretty good seasons coming up. The Pirate management team could not come out and say they were losing games on purpose but there really is no other explanation for who they put on the field. They allowed certain players who shall remain nameless, because they have families and children, to make 1072 plate appearances. That is equivalent to two full time position players, or 22% of your starting lineup. This group of individuals had a batting average of .156, an on base percentage of .218 and slugged .230. To put this in perspective, in 2016 the San Franscisco Giants pitching staff had a batting average of .144. It was like the Pirates, instead of using a DH, let pitchers’ bat in two spots of the batting order. The Pirates allowed a group of pitchers to throw 31% of the team’s innings for an ERA of 6.31. I did not include position players pitching in that number. Many times, they put these pitchers in key moments of the game when there were much better choices. According to baseball reference the Pirates were fortunate to lose only 100 games. Despite management’s efforts, the Pirates were a respectable 21-27 in one run games. If they could have done that well in all their games, they would have won 70 games, but management made sure they did not. The 2022 Pirates did exactly what they wanted to do. The 2023 Pirates will contend for the division title. There will be a few things that will have to happen, but more on that tomorrow.
Final Score: Pirates 5 Cardinals 3
How The 2023 Pirates Did: As a group (7), they went 8 for 24 with 4 walks, scoring 5 runs, driving in 3 and striking out only 5 times. I’m not sure if Miquel Andujar will be part of the 2023 Pirates next year but I am counting him for now, had 3 hits to lead the way. Johan Oviedo could only go 4 innings but looked better than most starters lately giving up 2 earned runs on 5 hits. The bullpen, this time was able to protect the lead after the Pirates put up the crooked number in the bottom of the 4th. Who knows what the bullpen will look like next year, but I count their performance none the less. The fielding was sketchy again with 2 more errors.
Key Moment of The Game: The Paul De Jong line out to end the game. If this ball is hit a little harder or a little higher there is no telling how the game would have ended with this bullpen history. It allowed the Pirates to close the season with a win.
Next Game: March 30, 2023, Red in Cincinnati. The Pirates start their playoff run.
Final Score: Pirates 7 Cardinals 8 in 10 innings
How The 2023 Pirates Did: The Pirates brought out the lumber last night scoring 7 runs on 15 hits. The first 6 batters for the Pirates went 12 for 28, scoring 6 runs and driving in 4. Oneil Cruz led the way getting 3 hits. Ji Hwan Bae, batting 9th, had a nice game going 2 for 5, with 1 RBI and 1 run scored. The starting pitching continued their late season slump with J. T. Brubaker only going 2.2 innings giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk. The bullpen could not hold the lead of 7-3 and the game went 10 innings before the Pirates lost 8-7. Cruz and Bae each made an error which contributed to the Cardinals scoring.
Key Moment of The Game: With score 8-7 Cardinals in the bottom of the 10 designated runner Kevin Newman was on 2nd base with one out. On a ground ball by Cruz that went off the first baseman’s glove and was retrieved by the 2nd baseman, Newman tried to score all the way from 2nd on the play. I do not know who made the decision, but it was a bad one and Newman was out at the plate. Instead of the Pirates having 1st and 3rd with one out, they had a runner on 1st with 2 outs. Cruz managed to get all the way around to third base, but Reynolds grounded out to end the game. The Pirates lost game number 100 for the season with some flare at least.
Next And Last Game of The Season: This afternoon, Cardinals in Pittsburgh. The last chance for the Pirates to put the 2023 Pirates on the field. On a personal note, I was in San Diego for the week, and it was fun to watch a team clinch a playoff spot and see the excitement. I got in very early this AM, which is why this is a noon report. After the season I will look at what the 2023 Pirates will do next year when they try and win games. Playoff baseball is right around the corner, and I can hardly keep my fingers still.
Final Score: Pirates 8 Reds 3
How The 2023 Pirates Did: The Pirate bats went to small ball last night as they had 13 hits, 11 singles and 2 doubles by Jack Suwinski. The second Suwinski double drove in the 2uns that put the Pirates ahead 4-2. Oneil Cruz had 4 hits and scored a run. Ke’Bryan Hayes had 2 hits, scored a run, and drove in a run. Roansy Contreras pitched 4 innings and gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and striking out 2. The Pirates pulled away at the end and it was another nice win against our new friends the Reds. We won, even though we played Zack Josh Van Collins Meter, along with someone by the name of Jose Godoy. Van Collins Meter got a sacrifice RBI last night, as he continues to shine at the plate, with a batting average of .048, since joining the Pirates. Godoy has a batting average .000 and did not disappoint going 0 for 4 with 2 strike outs. Where do the Pirates find these guys?
Key Moment of The Game: The Zack Josh Van Collins Meter sacrifice fly in the 7th. You knew it was the Pirates night if this guy can drive in a run. The bullpen did well with a 4 and 6 run lead.
Next Game: Tonight, Reds in Pittsburgh. I can’t wait to see Jose Godoy again tonight and I am sure we will see him. Right now, the money line on him ever getting a hit this season is +567. The end of the season is at least in sight.
Final Score: Pirates 3 Cubs 8
How The 2023 Pirates Did: At the plate it was feast or famine for the 2023 Pirates. Reynolds, Cruz, Castro, and Hayes went 6 for 13 with 2 RBI’s and 3 runs scored. On the flip side, Bae, Suwinski, Mitchel and Delay, went 0 for 13, with 2 walks and 1 RBI. Pirate management couldn’t help themselves and had to put Zack Josh Van Collins Meter in the lineup. He added to his superb stats, which now total 1 for 19, 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. In the field the Pirates made 4 errors which contributed to 3 of the Cubs 8 runs. Cruz looked particular bad on a ground ball the allowed 2 runs to score. This is a team that looks like they would like the season to be over yesterday. They are the definition of lackluster. On a brighter note, Luis Ortiz had another solid 80 pitch performance only giving up 1 hit, while walking 2 and striking out 7. He was charged with a run and the loss thanks to Manny Banuelos’s incompetence.
Key Play of The Game: The top of the 7th was a disaster for the Pirates. DUJ came in and got hit hard to allow 1 run to score and then Cruz botched the ground ball which allowed 2 more runs. This quickly jumped the Cub’s lead to 6-1. Essentially the game was over. DUJ and Manny Banuelos had a total of 27 pitches, getting 2 outs, and giving up 5 runs.
Next Game: Tonight, Reds in Pittsburgh. The Pirates are giving away tickets for $10 for the final 6 home games. However, the Pirates are going to start Zack Josh Van Collins Meter, Greg Allen, Ben Gamel, Kevin Newman and the newly acquired Miguel Andujar for all 6 games. Cruz will be in the lineup for only 3 of those games. After all, what do you expect for 10 bucks?
Final Score: Pirates 6 Cubs 0
How The 2023 Pirates Did: In what could be called the most surprising performance of the year, Johan Oviedo pitched 7 innings of shutout ball, giving up only 3 hits, striking out 7, and SHOCKINGLY did not walk a batter. This from a man who was averaging a walk per inning over his first 14 innings of work. I didn’t even care if the bullpen blew the 6 run lead, I was so stunned with that performance. Hopefully, Oviedo find something, and this was no fluke. If he can get control of the stuff he has, he could be a top of the rotation starter. The rest of the 2023 Pirates did quite well racking up 6 runs, with some clutch hitting. They definitely made the most of their 7 hits and 2 walks. Rudolfo Castro came out of his funk getting 2 hits.
The Key Moment of The Game: In the bottom of the 5th, when it looked like the Pirates would only pick up a couple of runs on the Ji Hwan Bae double, Jack Suwinski had a big pinch hit 3 run home run with 2 outs, to put up the big crooked number. With this bullpen, I think everyone let out a big sigh of relief. It was a big plus, that relaxed everyone especially the bullpen, in this case Zack Thompson, who shut out the Cubs the rest of the way.
Next Game: This afternoon, Cubs in Pittsburgh. The Pirates continue to play the rejects, this time putting in Gamel, Newman, and Allen to start the game. I am still waiting to see that dream team take the field, the 2023 Pirates. I would love just to get a taste of what 2023 can be like. The Pirates will be pitching another potential young stud, in Luis Ortz. In 10.2 innings he has allowed only 1 earned run, 4 hits, 5 walks, while striking out 10. Please Lord, keep these arms healthy.
Final Score: Pirates 5 Cubs 6
How The 2023 Pirates Did: Bryan Reynolds continues to have a hot finish to the year. He got 2 hits, including his 25th home run, drove in 2 runs, and liked everybody else walked. There were 16 walks in the game. The Cubs got 3 runs in the top of the 6th and put one ball out of the infield in the entire inning. The Pirates walked in 2 runs for the 2nd time in the last 6 games. The game took 3 hours and 33 minutes to play as there were 356 pitches thrown. Now that’s a pitch count. Jack Suwinski had his first productive game in a long time hitting a home run and walking 3 times. Ji Hwan Bae made his major league debut for the Pirates last night and had a good game. He went 1 or 3, walked of course, and stole 2 bases. In 314 minor league games he has an on base percentage of .373. The highest on the Pirates right now is Bryan Reynolds at .344. In a nutshell the Pirates tried to lose the game and the Cubs gladly accepted.
Key Moment of The Game: When Will Crowe was brought into the game. In his last 2 appearances he has gotten 1 out, given up 8 earned runs, and walked 4. Don’t you think it might be time to shut him down for the season. The Pirates should just bring up the entire Indianapolis bullpen. Even if you have to designate for assignment most of the Pirate bullpen do you think anybody would pick them up.
Next Game: Tonight, Cubs in Pittsburgh. Speaking of walks, Johan Oviedo starts for the Pirates tonight. In 4 starts for the Pirates he has pitched 13.2 innings and walked 14. Fans attending tonight’s game will have plenty of time to get a beer, check their cell phones and not miss any “action” of the game. Baseball is making rule changes to speed up the game next year, but 356 pitches is 356 pitches. Even with a pitch clock, the game would have been over 3 hours long. Here is a radical rule change that would certainly speed up the game. Make 3 balls a walk instead of 4. Let’s start making pitchers throw strikes for God’s sake. Between batters begging and pitchers nibbling, the game has turned into watching Daniel Vogelbach bat every time. Even though a walk would still be boring, at least it would happen faster. It’s like being in line at McDonald’s, it’s much better when there are only 2 people ahead of you, instead of 6.
Final Score: Pirates 2 Cubs 3
How The 2023 Pirates Did: Only 6 started last night, as management finds ways of putting garbage on the field. I will never understand how players can develop if they do not play. Chavis, Hayes, and Castillo were all on the bench. Then Hayes pinch hit for Delay who was having a pretty good night at the plate with a double and a walk. Zack Josh Van Collins Meter was allowed to bat just before, and of course, struck out to go 1 for 12 with 6 strike outs and a walk, since being allowed to play. I am still not too sure that is not Josh Van Meter. He certainly plays like him. Bryan Reynolds had a great night at the plate going 3 for 3, driving in a run and walking twice. Unfortunately, he was about the only one who looked like he knew what to do with the bat. The rest of the Pirates went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. The Pirates got 6 walks to go along with 6 hits but left 10 men on base. Cruz, Castro and Suwinski went 0 for 14 with 5 strike outs. Mitch Keller pitched an ok game giving up only 2 runs in 6 innings work. He gave up 4 hits, walked 2 and struck out 7. The Pirates went down to their 7th straight defeat very quietly, even though they made it interesting in the bottom of the 9th.
Key Moment of The Game: The 2 out lightening the Cubs were able to do in the top of the 2nd. They opened the inning with a single. But then Keller was able to get 2 outs on a fly out and a strike out. Then the Cubs got a single to put runners on 1st and 2nd. Christopher Morel ripped a double into the left field corner, that Gamel went after like he had 2 bricks in each back pocket. He looks like this all the time in the outfield. Needless to say, the 2 runs scored easily, and the Cubs had a 2-0 lead, that they never relinquished.
Next Game: Tonight, Cubs in Pittsburgh. It would be nice to see at least 8 of the 2023 Pirates in the starting lineup. We just have 2 weeks to go, please let the kids play.
Final Score: Pirates 2 Yankees 14
How The 2023 Pirates Did: Ke’Bryan Hayes tackled Josh Donaldson in the endzone to give the Pirates their only 2 points of the game. The Pirate defense played well but the Yankees got 2 touchdowns, one by Oswaldo Cabrera and another one by Gleyber Torres. Harrison Bader added the extra points for a 14 to 2 victory. The Pirates got only 4 hits and pitched badly most of the game. This was about as lackluster as it could get. The Yankees scored 8 runs in the 8th against real pitchers. They will remain nameless to save their families the embarrassment. In the last 10 innings at Yankee Stadium the Pirates were outscored 19-2. The Pirates did not commit an error last night and the Yankees struck out more than they did. I came up with a more positive spin on this game than the Pirate web site could. Judge couldn’t even hit his 61st home run because Eric Stout walked him. I’m sorry, I did say I would not mention names.
Key Moment of The Game: The umpire said play ball. The Yankees hit another grand slam in the first and the game was over. The Pirates have petitioned the league office to see if they would be allowed to invoke the mercy rule. In the petition they stated that if they fell behind by 4 runs, they could stop the game after the 5th inning. They are afraid that their bullpen will be permanently destroyed both physically and mentally if they have to pitch in one more blow out game. They have been blown out 28 times this season, meaning they have lost by 5 or more runs 28 times. In those games they have given up 324 runs for an average of 11.5 runs per game. Some of the better defenses in the NFL have given up less points per game.
Next Game: Tonight, Cubs in Pittsburgh. The Pirates still find ways to get the rejects on the field. The latest, Zack Josh Van Collins Meter has kept up the garbage tradition of his predecessors. He is 1 for 9 with 4 K’s, the perfect Pirate. The good news is we are coming down the home stretch, with only 13 games to play. Could the Pirates lose all 13 remaining games, only The Shadow knows. He certainly will be managing to lose.