After a series sweep by a division rival it may be hard to find the silver linings or see any light at the end of the tunnel. Pirates Fans and others are all too happy to pile on to the misery that we were left with after Pittsburgh’s one-hit loss to Milwaukee because as we all know the Pirates are gonna Pirate. Now, I am not trying to be overly optimistic or pretend like everything is going great since it obviously isn’t. However, there are still some positives that can be drawn from a season of evaluation, amongst the many negatives that can’t be completely ignored either.
1) Kevin Newman seems to be getting his bat going. After starting the series with an 0 for 4 night, Newman went 4 for 8 in the final two games; raising his average from .050 on the season to .179. I know this is still not ideal, but improvement has to start somewhere.
2) Steven Brault remains efficient as the first half of the “piggyback”. Brault struck out 4 and didn’t allow a single hit or walk over 3 innings of work on Sunday and it only took 35 pitches for him to do so.
3) JT Brubaker shows the ability to stretch himself out for multiple innings and perform well in doing so. In his second appearance of the season, the young right hander went 3 full innings, striking out 3 along the way; bringing his season total to 7.
4) Colin Moran’s power may be for real. Moran blasted his 5th home run on Saturday, which is quickly climbing to almost half of his total (13) over 149 games last year.
5) Jacob Stallings’ defense is as good as or better than advertised. As reported by Jim Rosati and Jason Mackey yesterday Stallings, per FanGraphs, leads Major League Baseball (all positions) in Defensive Runs Above Average (DEF) at 2.4. Next best is Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez (1.5) and has also been worth 3 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), which is tied for the MLB lead among catchers with Wilson Ramos of the Mets.
1) The injury bug has started to take over the Pirates Pitching Staff. While it wasn’t bad enough that Mitch Keller (left side discomfort) and Michael Feliz (right forearm discomfort) were placed on the 10-day IL on Sunday, Chad Kuhl came out of the game in the bottom of the 5th after only 1 1/3 innings and 28 pitches. This string of bad luck for the Pirates pitchers began a few days before when Kyle Crick (right shoulder strain) and Clay Holmes (right forearm strain) found their way to the IL.
2) The swing and miss by the Pirates lineup is starting to make almost every pitcher they face look like a potential Cy Young Candidate. Over the past 3 games the Pirates batters have struck out a total of 28 times, which came after 14 Ks in the last game of the series with the Brewers.
3) The Pirates are now 0-2 in extra inning games under the new runner on 2nd rule. Even though I completely hate this rule to my core, it is something we have to deal with and so far the Pirates have failed miserably in adjusting to it. In 4 innings with a runner starting on second with no outs, they have yet to have a player cross home plate.
4) Free passes and homers given up by the Pirates are starting to pile up. At this point in the season the Pirates pitching staff has given up 43 free passes, tied for 5th in MLB, and 11 long balls. For a team that can’t get its bats going, this is something that needs to stop or at least slow down.
5) A losing streak in a shortened season is amplified, which doesn’t bode well for the Pirates as they have now lost 4 in a row. In a shortened season the Pirates 4 game skid would almost be equivalent to an 11 game losing streak in a full 162 game season.
With a three game set against the Minnesota Twins scheduled to begin today this Yinzer will continue to look to pick out the positives in what seems like a sea of negatives. Hopefully this starts to get a little bit easier to do, but just so I am clear, I am not counting on it. Either way, it is all a part of the process.