Ke’Bryan Hayes makes the lineup more professional from the moment the letter K is written on the lineup card, but as bad as the offense has been, its key he isn’t being dropped into nothingness.
The way Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds have held up their end of the bargain in his absence means he’s not being dropped into some abyss. No matter how they line this up its likely those three will hit consecutively and that can do nothing but help.
Personally, I’d go Frazier-Reynolds-Hayes one through three. Frazier is an on base machine, Reynolds can be a run producer but he’s much better suited to the two hole where he can just take more of what the pitcher gives him. Hayes could do that too of course, but if he stays healthy he’ll likely finish the season with more homeruns than anyone despite Reynolds’ recent power surge.
One guy in baseball isn’t supposed to make or break a lineup but let’s be honest here, a lineup can’t be effective with 2 real threats. Things just don’t pan out like that often enough to make an impact. Think about it, when it’s just those two, in order to make a big impact you’re waiting for the bottom of the lineup to have a rare on base party, then survive the 2-hole hitter du jour and hope Reynolds still has an opportunity.
With the three of them, there’s a shot every single time they appear in an inning to score.
This is without even talking about getting Colin Moran back in the fold.
With the glove, Hayes is brilliant, but Erik Gonzalez held down the hot corner well. Taking his bat out of the lineup however will help this offense too. He’s never swung an impact bat, but this year it’s actually been worse than that. Even the “he’s never gotten a real shot” crowd has to admit he’s gotten more opportunity than ever before. In 2020 he had the most at bats he’s ever had in MLB with 181, and here we are in June with Erik just 13 at bats fewer for 2021. A .214 batting average with an OPS+ of 49. He’s just been abysmal.
You probably didn’t need me to write that last paragraph. And the way Kevin Newman has played defense this season, you probably don’t need me to tell you Kevin will keep his job and being completely transparent, his numbers are actually worse than Gonzalez’. .215 in 186 at bats with an OPS+ of 42. But if the argument can’t be made that Gonzalez is a defensive upgrade, at least not a glaring one, only one of these two has a shot at a future as a Pirate that stretches beyond 2022. Let’s answer the question, right now, this season.
We can’t erase what we saw in the first two months of the 2021 season, but if you just want to hit a reset button knowing the entire picture of what this team does won’t be pretty, June 3rd looks like a good place to do it.
Again, it’s rare in baseball when one player can have the impact that this one could, but he makes a whole bunch of parts that don’t fit together look purposeful. That’s what this one player can do, by his own performance and the diminishing use of others at the same time.
And don’t worry about piling on the kid or burying him with expectation. He doesn’t care, and it doesn’t scare him. He’s had all of 90 at bats in the league, and there still isn’t a bunch of protection in the lineup for him, but we’ve seen nothing but good. So we can sit here waiting for him to “become a Pirate” or we can allow ourselves to believe he is representative of who the Pirates could become.
His shoulders look plenty big to me, I think he’s got this, and I spent enough time doubting him, he’s sold me.
Welcome back Ke’Bryan Hayes. Welcome back offense that can help make the most of pitching performances. Welcome back glimpse of the future.
I honestly can’t wait to watch this game, just the expectation of seeing an offense with a chance to do damage will make this more fun. We also shouldn’t discount the amount of pressure players like Reynolds and Frazier have put on themselves to BE the offense. They know what the rest of the lineup can do too. Think we’re the only ones who look at who’s where in the lineup and puke in our mouths a bit? I’m guessing not.
Starling Marte returns to PNC tonight, and while I’m looking forward to seeing him again, he won’t even come close to being the story tonight. That distinction belongs to Mr. Hayes.