The Pirates are Finding Answers in the Rotation, but the Bullpen and Offense Continue to Fail the Test. Cubs Win 5-0

Experimentation is part of evaluation. Pretty simple concept right? This is why you see weird lineup spots, players posting up in spots they’ve never played and I’m not even bringing young guys learning their craft into the conversation.

Just as big a part of evaluation is knowing when to pull the plug. Erik Gonzalez is not a number 3 hitter, just isn’t. Yeah, it’s easy to say he sucks or whatever knee jerk reaction you want to toss out, but I’m talking more from a mentality standpoint. See we often stop shy of believing that’s a thing, but when Erik has hit leadoff or lower in the lineup he is patient and his OBA reflects that, put him in a production spot and he swings much quicker.

Some guys get put into those production spots and can’t get past the feeling that they need to be the guy. It’s pretty clear to me that putting a guy like that there is doing nobody including him any favors.

Here’s the thing with all this evaluation stuff, you have to hope they’re learning the same things you are. One of those lessons should be that JT Brubaker should head into Spring penciled into the starting rotation. He pitched well in his last outing and tonight he really put on a clinic. He went 6.2 innings with 4 hits, 2 ER, 1 BB, and 9 Ks. One of those runs was on a bunt with two outs and the other was a single and double back to back. He had been using his fastball nearly 55% of the time and add in the 35% for his slider you only have 10% to split between his Curve and Change.

The Change up is a work in progress for the young man, he has a good one but you can tell he doesn’t trust it entirely. The Curve is electric, but he doesn’t throw it nearly enough. Part of this could be misidentification as his slider and curve almost overlap into a slurve at times. When he’s feeling both and they are identifiably different as they were this evening, he can be a really solid pitcher.

We can all be mad at how this year has gone, trust me there are players in that room who completely agree, difference is they’re responsible for it where you just have to watch it. OK, well I HAVE to watch it, you get to I guess.

That said, they don’t control how they’re utilized. That has been my biggest issue this season with Shelton, not disagreeing with his decisions as much as not understanding how they jive with the stated goal of “getting better” or “evaluation”. To me, if the moves don’t meet either of those expectations, it’s fair to criticize, and oh boy will I when this season officially becomes history.

Blake Cederlind came in with a runner on and two outs relieving Davis in the 8th. He uncorked a wild pitch and walked a batter then gave up a double to Kyle Schwarber to put the Cubs up 4-0. After that a shattered bat single scored another to make it 5-0. Another base hit for Heyward, did I mention this was all with two away?

The offense was really lackluster tonight, and when one of the highlights is Polanco walking twice you know I’m right. Ke’Bryan Hayes continues to hit and Bryan Reynolds continues to chip away at the line he’s created for himself but very pedestrian effort.

Wasting starts is the theme of the past few games, and as much as I’d love to get on Cederlind for getting touched up, first, it happens and second, if you don’t score any runs it really doesn’t matter how many you give up past the first one.

4 hits won’t get it done most nights and the Pirates have far too many games like this. Look, results are results, but you’d like to at least feel like the approach is good. You watch a game like Brault’s last start for instance where seemingly the entire lineup is going the other way and taking what’s in front of them and wonder how the very next night it flips to this impatient, swinging for the river approach that nets them next to nothing.

You can’t turn every hitter into something. You can’t turn every hitter into what you want them to be either. Sometimes you have to coach to skill set, and even the most fervent disgruntled fan must admit some of these guys can hit better than this. Something has to change, and it might be the hitting coach.

Bucs lose 5-0 to the Chicago Cubs

News & Notes:

  • JT Brubaker continued a streak of really nice starts dating back to Steven Brault’s complete game last week. In that span the Pirates have lost all but one and the only turd in the punchbowl was Trevor Williams.
  • Ke’Bryan Hayes is locked in. WAY too early to decide he’s going to the 2021 All Star game but he’s certainly shown what he can do when things are working. Have to like what he’s shown and he’s not popping singles over the short stop, he’s roping balls to the wall and gaps with regularity.
  • Blake Cederlind came in to the 8th inning with two away and a runner at 1st. He hit 100 on the gun but gave up 2 runs and allowed one inherited runner to cross the plate as well. Rough night, but important to remember as good as this kid’s stuff is he has never pitched an inning past AA prior to being called up. He’s a keeper.
  • Bryan Reynolds has never hit below .302 in his college or professional career, until now. He was asked about his performance and here is what he had to say. “There’s no getting out of it at this point,” Reynolds said. “I”m not going to be hitting what I want to hit, so I’m trying to find something this last week that I can build on for next season. Obviously, I would like to have more games, have 160 games instead of 60 to get things back to where they should be, but I don’t have that luxury.”
  • Jared Oliva made his MLB debut tonight in the 9th with two outs. He Struck out looking to end the game on 3 pitches.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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