We all knew that the truncated 2020 season was going to be rough on the Pirates Pitchers. After beginning their ramp up in Spring Training, they were abruptly shutdown and sent packing to work out on their own. After the unexpected layoff, they had to start stretching themselves out again during an abbreviated Summer Camp. Now they are being forced to start and stop and then start again due to postponements, while preparing to play games with little time off and 7 inning double headers squished in between. Thus far the Pirates have played 18 games, which ultimately leaves 42 games yet to be played in the remaining 41 days; a task that would difficult for even the most seasoned and healthy pitching staffs, which the Pirates clearly are not.
Prior to the initial start to the season Pirates Fans were extremely optimistic due to the firing of Ray Searage and the subsequent hiring of new school pitching coach, Oscar Marin. Gone were the days of pitch to contact and the game within the game; enter in the rapsodo, Trackman data and other analytical tools. However, just as it was with the Pirates Pitchers getting shutdown and jerked around, the same would go for Marin. He was barely getting started with introducing his approach to the big league staff, along with members of the Minor Leagues and non-roster invitees when he forced to go back home like everyone else. Sure there were stories of him getting to work with Trevor Williams because of them living near each other and how much he liked his curveball, which was nice to hear, but this is one pitcher in a whole staff and organization of pitchers. Many others didn’t have this benefit, as well as the fact that Marin didn’t have the opportunity to work with each and every one of them to instill his vision.
So here they all were at the beginning of a season that would be like no other, minus Chris Archer who had been placed on IL and Edgar Santana with his 80 game suspension for PEDs; yet Pirates fans were still hopeful even though the only additions were a few non-roster invitees to go along with a couple of players returning from injury and some first timers. Now I am not saying I wasn’t one of these fans, erring on the side of caution, but still optimistic; because I was. I am just pointing out that maybe we were all looking through our rose colored glasses a little to much; at least in the short term, as we sit here 18 games later pretty much in the same boat as we were last season. Injuries have started to pile up, young guys are being called on before their time, players are getting signed off other team’s waiver wires to fill holes and add depth and others are being given too long of a leash at times, possibly out of necessity. As I comb through the statistics of this young season it feels like deja vu.
In 2019 the Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching Staff was toward the bottom of the list in almost every statistical category including ERA (26th with a 5.19), BB/9 (24th at 3.65), HR/9 ( 21st allowing 1.51) and LOB% (26th at 68.9%). Flash forward a year and it is much off the same. They are 26th in ERA with a 5.55, 30th in BB/9 at 4.54, 21st in H/9 allowing 1.51 and 24th in LOB% at 67.2%. Sure it is not all their fault due to injuries, patching holes, playing young guys and in the case of this year, dealing with the unforeseen consequences of a global pandemic, but last year wasn’t either.
In the end we have to make do with the hand we are dealt; and in the cases of Derek Shelton and especially Oscar Marin they might need to ask Ben Cherington if the deck can be reshuffled or in the worst case scenario, ask for a new deck.