Five Pirates Thoughts at Five 5-24-21

This could easily be a whole bunch of woe is me after a weekend series like that in Atlanta. Just not my style. I was never under any illusions as to what this season would bring and while there will be bright spots as we keep unfolding the pages of this season there will certainly be more like what we just witnessed as well.

Ok, maybe some of these won’t be too positive, but we’re going to keep it fair.

1. It’s Not Hockey, but a Power Play is Still Crucial to Team Success

There are two things MLB teams that aren’t blessed with nearly unlimited resources can’t buy. Top of the rotation pitching, and game changing power.

The Pirates are part of that much larger group that has to develop those things and let’s face it, for the most part as an organization they’ve not done it very well. Oh, sure, there was Pedro Alvarez, and Gerrit Cole, heck I’ll even give you Andrew McCutchen although he was more of a complete player than simply a power hitter.

Some of these much needed commodities are coming so long as they continue to develop properly. Maybe they have enough to ultimately create a good baseball team, maybe they need more to become great. The top 100 prospects change constantly and that accounts for players graduating, players ascending onto the list and players falling off.

To avoid the pitfalls of many teams like them, they must continue the job. Hedge your bet and make sure instead of waiting for 8 guys, there are 8 more who have just as good a chance to get there.

The team we’re watching today is so devoid of power they simply can’t win unless everything goes right, and that’s a likelihood that isn’t going to happen often. Moran and Hayes will help, they’ll make it more entertaining and make the stars align more often, but it will only serve to show how important even a little game changing power increases the chances of success.

2. Ke’ is Almost Back

In Ke’Bryan Hayes’ rehab assignment he has had 6 at bats and three hits, one being a homerun. In his 5 MLB at bats he had this season he of course hit a homerun. He’s missed all but 1 full game in 2021 and is only 3 homeruns behind the team leaders. The importance of his presence on this team is kind of impossible to overstate.

It’s not like it is preventing the team from competing for a division title or anything, but it seems like the Pirates miscalculated a bit when they placed him on the 60-day, because he’s pretty clearly ready, and now he’ll have to play out the string in AAA until June 3rd. Again, not a huge deal, but man this team needs a reason to hope, and I’m afraid hope’s name is Ke’Bryan.

3. What Will The Pirates Do When All These Guys Return?

In the coming days and weeks the Pirates will have a glut of players returning. Phillip Evans, Colin Moran, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Chad Kuhl, and a bit further out Jose Soriano and Steven Brault.

Now, that’s 6 players, 3 position, 3 pitchers. Some of these decisions will make themselves, like Tucker going back down to AAA is a no brainer but it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle this. Even Ka’ai Tom and Trevor Cahill could be back relatively quickly.

Vulnerable players currently on the roster are pretty obvious. Will Craig, Ildemaro Vargas, Cole Tucker, Miguel Yajure (assuming he gets the call up), Wil Crowe, Ben Gamel.
I just listed 6 players, clearly there could be others chosen, clearly it doesn’t account for others returning beyond those 6. Suffice to say, they could just as easily tell Tom and Cahill to just stay away. Heck they could DFA Evans and keep Craig.

Point is, it’s going to be a very active couple weeks and if nothing else, it’s hard to be all that upset, the team needs much of what’s returning.

4. People Want a Correct Strike Zone, but Are You Willing to Accept All the Things That Come With It?

I’m tired of watching umpires miss strike calls too, but when it eventually changes to some form of robo umping there will be unintended consequences.

No, I’m not just talking about pitch framing. For one thing, I don’t think many people realize the evening effect human umpires have on the game. Hitters like Bryan Reynolds will absolutely rake. He’s got a tremendous eye, down to fractions of a baseball and if you add in a strike zone that never changes game to game, pitcher to pitcher, he’ll quickly acclimate to it and I expect him to destroy.

Problem is, he won’t be alone.

The art of pitching is in many ways about slight of hand. Tunneling the ball so it looks like every pitch is coming at the same plane before it breaks. The electronic strike zone being tested right now would quite literally only read the space above the plate. So, no more bending the ball around the strike zone, it’s now got to have at least part of it’s plane through the box.

It will hurt some hitters like Anthony Rizzo who use a fearless approach to hang over the plate as well.

This is a bigger change than just getting everything right, and I’m not here to tell you it’s right or wrong, as much as point out, no matter the intentions, rarely is a change this big without collateral damage.

Replay sounded like a great idea too, and if I could put that genie back in the bottle I would in a heartbeat. It’s destroying sports, in the name of correctness.

5. Adam Frazier Has Become What Some Hoped He Would

As I write this Adam is hitting .335 and shows no signs of slowing down. He’s getting hits in so many different ways, from so many different pitch types and to all fields it’s difficult to imagine him slowing down.

Now, we’ve seen this in spells from him before, but he’s never had a hot start to a season, and that could very well add up to being in the conversation for a batting title all season long. As Joe and Justin mentioned this morning, that very well could be for another team, but what he’s doing in a season where few are hitting is incredible.

Whether he does it in a Pirates uniform or somewhere else, quite possibly nobody is doing more for the Pittsburgh Pirates right now than Adam.

There are other options on the table, the Pirates could take a look around their organization and see nobody who’s going to push Adam aside is coming quickly and push to extend him, but in all likelihood, this is the hit we should be bracing for.

Yes, yes, farm team for the league, we get guys to be good then trade them, all that stuff. If you say these things, you don’t truly understand point number 1 in today’s piece. If you think it’s about money, you’re only right if you mean Adam might want too many years to have it make sense. No matter what happens, having a guy put up career numbers can only benefit the franchise.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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