Pittsburgh Pirates Fans are one thing above all else, passionate. We have some of the most extreme reactions, both negative and positive to every set of circumstances, player(s), managers, opponents, stadiums, rules and everything else baseball related. You name it, we will either cheer as loud as we can to drown you out or boo until you beg us to stop; because it’s just what we do. As baseball season began just a few days ago until now I have seen things go from doom and gloom to elation back and forth countless times, so much so that I had a hard time shuffling through the madness to find out what is really going with our 2020 Pittsburgh Pirates. After I took a step back and could finally see the forest for the trees, I thought I would share with you all the 5 positive and negative takeaways from the opening weekend of baseball for our Buccos; because we as Yinzers know, not everything can be positive.
1) Jose Osuna has done well with early season opportunities. From a two run single on Opening Night to a 2 run homer on Sunday afternoon, Osuna has made his presence known early and often. Going 3 for 8 with 4 RBIs to begin the season is one quick way to get the manager’s attention and earn extra playing time and/or get the nod in high pressure situations off the bench.
2) Colin Moran is probably better than a lot of people give him credit for. The last two seasons Moran was an absolute defensive liability posting a -11 DRS in 2018 and -13 DRS in 2019. However, with the ability and opportunity to play multiple positions, as well as still getting at bats as a designated hitter, Moran could slowly change the perception of him held by many Pirates Fans. So far in 2020 Moran has played third and first base, while DHing in between; going 4 for 11 with a home run and a double.
3) JT Brubaker finally gets to make his Major League Debut. It may be a year later than many of us expected after such a great start to the 2019 AAA season. Through 4 starts Brubaker had 2-1 record with a 2.57 ERA, a 1.095 WHIP, 20 strike outs in 21 innings. Then the injury bug struck and his season was ended after two rehab starts in West Virginia. On Sunday afternoon as Brubaker came into the game in relief, something he hasn’t done since the 2018 Arizona Fall League and had done only two other times in his professional career. In two innings of work he struck out 4 and did not allow a run. He did get hit hard three times, but worked around the situation without being phased at all.
4) Phillip Evans might be the first “find” for Ben Cherington, Derek Shelton and Company. The Pirates signed the Minor League Free Agent to a contract and invited him to Spring Training. Many times these types of signings are made for depth within the organization and these players often find themselves in Indianapolis with the Indians for the season. In a year without Minor League Baseball, Evan was afforded a unique opportunity and took full advantage of it; ultimately making the Opening Day 30 Man Roster. On Sunday he got his first hit as a Pirate and added two more for good measure, driving in Josh Bell on a double in the 8th Inning.
5) Nick Burdi has the all the makings of full-time “closer” of the future. Last April it seemed like Burdi’s young career could be over as he lay on the mound, clutching his elbow in obvious pain. It was absolutely heart wrenching to watch. Now, a little over a year later, he stood with his foot on the rubber trying to close out the game versus the Cardinals to give the Pirates their first win of the season. He made quick work of the heart of St. Louis’ lineup, striking out all three swinging and throwing only 11 pitches.
1) Bryan Reynolds has yet to record a hit this season. I know it has only been three games, but you never want to see one of your stars begin a season like this; 0 for 10 with two strike outs. He has reached base twice on walks, which is a positive in a long line of negatives. For the player that has done nothing but hit his entire professional career and battled for the batting title in his Rookie season, I hope this is just a little bump in the road and not a full on Sophomore Slump.
2) Trevor Williams continues to struggle. In his season debut Williams allowed three runs on five hits, only lasting 3 2/3 Innings while tossing 67 pitches. After a tremendous end to the 2018 season and a strong start to 2019, he just hasn’t been the same. Originally I chalked his struggles from last season up to a side strain suffered on May 16th versus the Padres. However, after a less than optimal Spring Training, Summer Camp and 1st start of the season I am starting to doubt myself.
3) Kyle Crick appears to have lost velocity on and control of his pitches. Over the past two seasons his fastball has averaged around 95 to 96 mph. Right now it is sitting at closer to 92. For a pitcher with control issues that can’t rely on speed to fool batters, this year could turn out to be a catastrophe. Add in some defensive blunders, like the ones from Saturday night, and Crick’s days in the Pirates Bullpen could be numbered.
4) Richard Rodriguez is a home run machine, in a bad way. In the 8th inning on Friday, Paul DeJong took a Richard Rodriguez fastball over the right field fence. Rodriguez gave up a career high 14 homers last season, which was 5 more than had given up the previous two years combined. Shelton just can’t continue to walk him out there every few days like Hurdle did last year.
5) Defensive struggles and miscues have continued. Yesterday the Cardinals were able to score their only run off of Mitch Keller because he forgot to cover first base. On Saturday Kyle Crick thought he had the baseball in his glove while trying to make a play, which eventually led to all four run attributed to him being unearned. On Friday night Newman had a sloppy double clutch and a throwing error. It was a comedy of defensive blunders that can’t continue because for a team that has minimal room for error, it can easily turn a win into a loss.
Now I know what many of you are already thinking as many of these points could be seen as overreactions to a bunch of small sample sizes. However, shouldn’t that be expected. After all I am Yinzer too.