Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

8-9-21 – By Gary Morgan @garymo2007 on Twitter

The Pirates had a brutal 4 game series against the Reds over the weekend, and blame is evenly split between the pitching and hitting. When you lose by 11 runs it’s hard to blame the offense, at the same time if you get shutout it’s hard to care you gave up 11 runs you know?

Thank goodness this isn’t called Five Positive Pirates Thoughts at Five.

1. This Bullpen is Beyond Bad

Oh the rotation isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders either, but the pen is almost more about finding ways to avoid using many members than it is about getting the job done. One thing I’ve been thinking about is when Chad Kuhl comes back off the COVID IL perhaps Crowe or Brubaker should head to the pen. I know many of you want to see Kuhl there but they won’t want to diminish his value as they head into this off season and he’s been one of the more effective starters. Brubaker is having his pitch count and innings artificially reduced to keep him alive. Maybe using him out of the bullpen would be a more effective path to use his services the rest of the way.

He’d still get his work in and we wouldn’t be looking at needing to cover 5 innings with the brutal bullpen.

It hasn’t helped that guys they relied on most of the year have turned into pumpkins. Stratton, Shreve and Underwood Jr. aren’t missing any bats.

There isn’t much that destroys team morale more than being in position to win through 5 or 6 innings only to wind up losing by 7. Worse, I don’t see any solutions, so maybe something creative like this with JT could help.

I just wrote about how the pitching staff is shaping up as we approach Spring, but man they really have to find some answers. If not, this is a preview of just how bad it could be. And before you scoff that it couldn’t get worse, remember the bullpen at the beginning of this season was a strength.

2. Bryse Wilson, More Than a Pleasant Surprise

Something struck me as I watched Bryse Wilson pitch these two starts for the Pirates since being dealt from Atlanta.

Here was a guy who wasn’t deemed good enough to make the rotation for the Braves, yet here he is, younger than anyone else the Pirates put on the mound not named Luis Oviedo looking more poised and polished. Now, we shouldn’t discount how many years he’s been up and down there, it’s not like this is a rookie, but he’s only had 17 MLB starts, making his first way back in 2018. For comparison Mitch Keller has 30 since 2019.

If you want to buy into the development system being better than it was, at some point guys the Pirates develop need to start looking a whole lot more like Wilson than Keller.

Hey, it’s 2 games, but if you watched him pitch, it’s also really hard to argue he doesn’t look more ready for action than anyone the Pirates have put forward.

3. The Book on Ke’Bryan

Oh it’s written. Pitch this man away, and down if you can. Mistake pitches are still going to happen, and he’s a good hitter, he’ll make them pay for that when he’s on.

Take a look at these images. First, this is the percentage of pitches he’s facing.

And here is his batting average per zone.

See anything that scares you?

Adjustments will come, and he’s talented enough to make them. Despite what you see here, he’s getting hits on balls inside, he’s just not turning on the ball with authority. The away pitches are all being beaten into the ground or fouled off.

This isn’t to bash the kid, or tell you he isn’t going to figure it out, it’s instead to make sure you understand why he’s struggling, and ultimately why sample size in this league is everything.

It took all of 4 weeks for this entire league to be wary of Hayes abilities, and less than that to decipher a way to attack him.

Believe it or not the Pirates employ someone who’s supposed to help with that, I’m hoping that’s a different someone next season.

4. What Will Be Doesn’t Trump What Is

I keep seeing fans jump right to saying players like Marcano, Park, Castro don’t matter because Peguero and Gonzalez will be the starting middle infield.

That could certainly still be true, but there are a good two seasons of baseball before this becomes reality.

The point here isn’t those two names, the point is, stop dismissing everyone in between. They will find answers on the way there and you’ll find that you aren’t all that excited to see someone else go for that guy you’ve been waiting on for 3 years.

When this thing really gets rolling, you’ll start to find less emphasis on guys who are 3 or 4 seasons away and more on AAA and MLB. That’s how a properly organized system looks and acts, its just been so long since you’ve seen it you can’t remember.

In other words, there are very good players coming along before we start digging into Cherington’s draftees and lower level acquisitions. He’d be the first to tell you he doesn’t plan to suck until they all get here.

And for the probably thousandth time, please stop reading ETAs for players on MLB websites. They’re just silly.

I can tell you right now Henry Davis won’t be here in 2023. He’s good, this is just an absolute joke of a timeline. Remember when Nick Gonzales was going to be here in 2023 and I told you to chill? Well there he is in High A Greensboro. He’s playing well, but sustained an injury and brace yourself, struggled for a while in his first season as a pro.

Think it’s safer with players closer to the league? Well sometimes, but then you have a guy like Travis Swaggerty who also got hurt. But yes, MLB can predict where a 20 year old is headed and by when. Keep telling yourself they’re accurate.

Maybe by the third year of me writing this you’ll realize I’m not just trying to keep kids held back. I’m trying to prevent you for setting yourselves up for disappointment. Disappointment that is honestly misplaced.

5. MVP?

Well, probably not, a team 30+ games under .500 isn’t going to allow for Bryan Reynolds to get the votes he deserves. Fair or unfair the MVP almost always goes to someone at least on a winning team.

He should get ample opportunity to secure the Gold Glove though. Jacob Stallings should as well.

See Bryan Reynolds has a real shot at finishing the season with the highest WAR in the league and he leads centerfielders in defensive runs saved.

Jacob Stallings leads all fielders period in defensive runs saved.

A major focus this season has been on improving defensively and largely, they’ve managed to achieve it, even while losing some players that helped in that effort.

Hey, I figured I’d end on a bright note.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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