9-1-21 By Craig W. Toth (aka @bucsbasement on Twitter)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of a full on rebuild as the enter what will be the final month of the season, aside from the three games they get to play in Buctober. After last night’s defeat at the hands of the hard hitting White Sox, their record on the year sits at 48-84; officially eliminated from contention in the NL Central, although as we as Pirates Fans know that shipped sailed along time ago. We are told it is all a part of the process. A continuation of the evaluations that started back in 2020, where wins and losses don’t matter. Some have gone as far as saying we are not even allowed to question it.
Of course, I have not been as stringent concerning the guidelines in assessing Ben Cherington and his apparent infallibility. I stated from the beginning that I had faith in Cherington abilities to build a strong Farm System, which he is well on his way towards accomplishing. Also, his history of being able to develop players has proven to be more effective than his predecessors in Pittsburgh; a feat that wouldn’t be that hard to exceed.
However, on the other side of things I have been critical of certain acquisitions, such as John Nogowski, Ka’ai Tom and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo; the later due to my confusion as to where he fits into the team’s future, as well as his current status of no more than a bench bat due to such poor fielding (-2 OAA in only 14 games with Pittsburgh). And to those clamoring for him to be a designated hitter, an idea I agree with, the decision to retain him could easily come before the two sides reach an agreement on the terms of the new CBA; if that even happens before the next season is set to start.
And just like it is OK to question Cherington, there is no one on the coaching staff that is beyond criticism; especially since our own Gary Morgan has been doing so since at least August 10th. To refresh your memory, check out his in-depth article from that date. My own frustrations have arisen from the lack of focus displayed in something as fundamental to the game like base-running; and no I am not taking about Ke’Bryan Hayes missing first base. Many times this year we have seen players misjudge fly balls, singles, sharply hit line-drives, etc. on the base paths; causing confusion as to when they should tag up at third, take the extra base, round the corner or even leave the in the first place.
These critiques, along with the performance of certain players at the plate and pitchers on the mound, are all things that the coaching staff as a whole and individual members should be judged on. Yet, at times I believe that we take these things too far: using misguided frustrations about eventual outcomes to lay blame at the feet of the staff, Ben Cherington and in last night’s specific case, Manager Derek Shelton.
With runners on the corners and no outs, Shelton decided that 69 pitches was enough for starter Bryse Wilson after back to singles by Jose Abreu and Eloy Jimenez. Replacing him with Chasen Shreve to face Yasmani Grandal, who had done this to Wilson earlier in the game.
Never mind the fact that Wilson, recently came of the IL due to arm fatigue and is on a well known hard 75 pitch count. If Wilson had gotten at least one of the previous batters out, but more than likely both, it is possible he could have been allowed to pitch to Grandal; but maybe not, as he is well known for his patience at the plate (.402 OBP and 23.9% walk rate), so what would be the point of risking a potential high stress at bat onto the arm of a guy who is clearly in the plans for 2022 and hopefully beyond.
On top of that Shelton’s selection of Shreve was not a poor one. On the season, the veteran lefty had posted a 3.12 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, although I will agree that he is not the best in high leverage situations on the team; but honestly who is outside of David Bednar, and maybe Duane Underwood, Jr recently. Surely not Sam Howard, who has a 15.19 ERA and a 2.63 WHIP over his last 7 appearances, but appeared a little better in eighth, or Anthony Banda, as he has not looked as sharp over his last two appearances. And this is just considering that Shelton was looking to go with a lefty.
Clearly it didn’t work, as Shreve walked two straight batters and gave up sac fly to make Wilson’s line look worse than it actually was, along with putting the Pirates down 4 to 2. Nevertheless, it seems as if this type of criticism is really just looking for something to explain away the fact that if it wasn’t for a two out single by Moran, Pittsburgh was almost destined to drop this game to the White Sox.
News and Notes
- Bryse Wilson has shown flashes of being the classic change of setting type of pitcher. In 5 games started with the Pirates he has posted a 4.32 ERA and career low 1.16 WHIP; certainly not ideal, but something to work with heading into 2022.
- Something else that is not ideal, is the fact that Ke’Bryan Hayes is currently day to day after himself by slamming his helmet out of frustration. He did realize it was is a mistake, one I believe he will learn from, but as a guy who has struggled coming back from one injury it is frustrating that this one was self induced.
- One thing that is equally as frustrating is watching Cole Tucker. I know it has only been a handful of at bats, and one game playing out of position, still he has to start to show something, and really anything that doesn’t make me think he isn’t going to be DFA’d in the off-season.
- Prior to the start of the game Michael Chavis was placed on the 10-Day IL with an elbow strain, and Hoy Park was recalled.
- In non-Pirates news, Gregory Polanco signed a Minor League deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Pirates and White Sox are scheduled for one more at Guaranteed Rate Field later this evening at 8:10 PM EST before they travel up north for a four game set at Wrigley.
Max Kranick (1-2, 7.20 ERA) toes the rubber for Pittsburgh, while Carlos Rodon (10-5, 2.43 ERA) is set to go for the Chicago team from the Southside.