Pittsburgh Pirates Start to the Season
The Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten off to a 3-6 start in their first nine games of the season but their record does not indicate how well they COULD be if everything was clicking to this point. Let’s begin with the offense:
The Pirates have had a very poor start to the season with the bats. The only guy who has been swinging a hot bat to this point is leadoff man, Starling Marte, who is currently batting .333, with 4 RBI. Marte has made every at bat count thus far, putting up a stiff challenge for the opposing pitchers. It is after Starling Marte where everything on offense starts to fall apart for the Pirates. As I said a few articles ago, superstar Andrew McCutchen needs to play like he did last season in order for the Pirates to contend in the NL Central. Thus far, “Cutch” has hit .233 but his hits have earned him 13 total bases in 30 plate appearances with 1 home run, and 3 doubles, bringing his RBI total to 6 early on this season. When McCutchen has reached base, he has caused havoc on the basepaths for opposing pitchers stealing 4 bags and has been caught once. A welcome sign for Pirates fans has been his swiping of the bases. Second basemen Neil Walker has been off to a very slow start at the plate, and that is a common theme when it comes to the Pirates offense to this point. Walker is currently batting .103 which is 3rd highest among the batting average qualifiers on the team. Walker does not have an extra base hit and in 29 appearances at the dish he only has, 3 singles. Pedro Alvarez is perhaps the biggest offensive disappointment to this point. He is batting .067 without an extra base hit. Catcher Russell Martin has been even worse, collecting only 1 hit through the first nine games of the season, his average sitting at .043, the lone hit being a double. Basically, you get the gist. The Pirates are not hitting one bit. After these 5 regulars I have outlined, Garrett Jones is batting .250 but does not have enough AB’s to qualify for the batting average lead. Clint Barmes is batting .087, Travis Snider sits at .214, and Gaby Sanchez is batting .100. This is clearly not the offensive start the Pirates envisioned coming out of the gate, but to be fair to the offense, they have run into some good pitching facing guys like: Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Zack Greinke, and Clayton Kershaw. Still, no excuses for how the Pirates have started thus far.
The Pirates starting rotation has been very solid to this point in the season minus number four starter Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez has been downright awful by giving up 12 earned runs in only 8.1 innings pitched, making his ERA 12.96. Ace of the staff A.J. Burnett, has been striking out guys with ease and is pitching well. Burnett has struck out 19 batters in 11 innings and pitching to an ERA of 3.27 but is 0-2 to start the year due to a lack of run support and matching up with Samardzjia and Kershaw in his first two starts. Left hander Wandy Rodriguez was off to a blazing hot start but got injured in his last start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving with what is diagnosed with left hamstring tightness. He has only allowed 1 earned run in 9 innings pitched thus far but unfortunately, may miss his next start against the Cincinnati Reds. James McDonald has pitched well to this point in the year as well. McDonald is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 12 innings of work. However, he has walked 6 batters and needs to have better control of his pitches to continue his early season success. Finally, Jeff Locke has only gotten 1 start and he pitched 6 innings allowing 4 runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon. He was better than his line indicated however and will look to rebound Saturday at home to the Reds ace Johnny Cueto, a tough matchup for Locke. Quite simply, the Pirates have pitched well in the rotation and could have some more W’s between them all if not for the offenses slow start.
In his new role as closer, Jason Grilli has thrived. He is 3/3 in his save opportunities (saving every Pirates win), and has not allowed a run to score. He is following up his dominant season last year nicely early on. Set up man Mark Melancon is proving his rough stint with the Boston Red Sox was not his true self, by not allowing a single run to come across in 5 innings of work. Jared Hughes has pitched in 5 ball games, giving up 2 runs, both coming in one outing against the Chicago Cubs and aside from that outing, has looked very good. Tony Watson has only given up 1 run in his 3.2 innings of work out of the bullpen and is looking nice himself. Jeanmar Gomez, and Justin Wilson have both been very good in there appearances as well. The only reliever who has gotten knocked around a bit is long man, Chris Leroux, a lot of which is attributed to his 6 walks in only 4 innings pitched. His walks have come back to haunt him as 3 runs have scored against him in 4 innings of work. If Leroux finds his command, he will make a great long man for the Pirates.
Plain and simple right now for Pittsburgh. They’re pitching very well. However, they are not hitting. Once the offense comes around, and if the pitching can do what they’re doing to this point, we will see the Pirates become a very dangerous team once it is all figured out. I look for them to give Cincinnati a challenge this weekend and here’s hoping, the bats come alive! Its A.J Burnett against Mike Leake to open up the series Friday night at PNC Park.