Some Nagging Pirates Issues Plague the Team Early On

4-27-22 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

First, happy 70th birthday to my Dad. Nothing I am today would be possible if you weren’t who you are Sir.

Here we are, not even 20 games into the 2022 season and the Pirates are already in full on confuse the fans territory. I don’t mean like the normal “why can’t we have this good player?” or similar, I mean just confusing moves.

Lets talk about some of the things we’ve seen, and try to make sense of them because the Pirates certainly aren’t helping. Before I even start, I know I’m gonna fail, but hey, in the spirit of trying let’s have at it shall we?

Why Are the Starters So Much Worse Than the Relievers?

This makes very little sense on the surface. Blame coaching as I often do and you eventually have to admit the same coaches are working with the bullpen. Put more responsibility on the talent and at some point you have to remind yourself the year prior a couple of those bullpen talents had the same issue as Starters.

I’m not going to go break down all their individual metrics and dice up the specific pitches harming each player, in fact I simply don’t need to. Here’s what I think is going on.

First, it’s a little bit the talent. These guys simply aren’t top tier pitchers and I think we all knew that already. Second, when moving to the pen, the Pirates are letting these guys come in and attack with all their weapons and that’s obviously worked out quite well, especially for guys like Dillon Peters and Wil Crowe.

Now the Pirates are using Dillon Peters to start/open the game tonight. He’s obviously been really good this year, I’m curious to see how if at all they change his approach. He’s probably not the best example, this isn’t a guy who has 5 pitches anyway, so I’m not sure we’ll learn much.

Keller and Quintana have been the best members of the rotation and each of them have struggled in the first couple innings more than anywhere else. With them I can honestly say, I’ve seen them not start out throwing everything they have, and also seen them stubbornly asked to throw something that just wasn’t working.

Now, one would think if the philosophy is to just go full on at the lineup until they pull you with no regard for how late it gets in the game, they’d have the same experience as the relievers, thing is, that just hasn’t been the case yet.

Makes me feel like the Pirates are trying to have some kind of hybrid approach to this “system”. In other words, we’ll do this now, but when we get better starters if they show they can go deeper, cool. My question there would be what tells you this guy will get a chance, and this guy won’t?

I mean lets say Roansy comes back up here and he looks great. Do we have to just expect he’s a 5 inning max candidate? Is that even a fair question since they probably want to keep his innings down anyhow?

Here’s a good one, are we to believe that only the Pirates can’t figure out how to have a guy start a game and stay clean for a few on occasion? Is everything they’re doing just masking the real issue? The coaching hasn’t shown me anything, and at some point, hearing the pitchers say they like it isn’t enough.

If Oscar Marin isn’t on whatever constitutes a hot seat, I’m not sure anyone ever will.

A Good At Bat Isn’t Always Good

Stick with me, I’ll make this make sense.

Watching the Bucs play so far this year, the announcers have made a point of pounding the “very professional” or even “terrific” at bats someone like Yoshi Tsutsugo takes.

He does, I’ll admit that, he takes a traditionally great at bat with a really good eye, but I’d ask a couple questions here. 1. with 2 outs and nobody on, should Yoshi be trying to walk? I think not, in fact I’d have him hunting something to drive from the first pitch, I certainly wouldn’t be bragging about getting to 3-2 after taking upwards of 4 very hittable pitches.

No argument here honestly, Yoshi takes a very nice at bat, he sees a bunch of pitches and draws his fair share of walks. But he’s a power hitter, well, at least that’s what he dressed up as for the party. You can’t be that if with two outs you’re seeking a walk and looking at strike 3. You can’t do that if with two guys in scoring position you’re caught looking trying to draw a walk to load the bases.

It’s weird, and worse it’s unproductive. Who’s behind him who’s going to drive him in even if he does get on?

Daniel Vogelbach takes a nice at bat, almost always in deep counts, but the difference is, he doesn’t turn into a slap hitter if he gets to two strikes. More than that, he doesn’t reach for a ball 6 inches off the plate or take one down the middle when his back is against the wall.

I’d also say, what the hell good does it do to take a good at bat and force a starter to throw a bunch of pitches if you constantly start every at bat 1-2 or 0-2 and the bullpen is arguably even better?

Again, is this just bad players? I guess it could be, but I’m not seeing anyone even blink when asked why Yoshi is just taking strike after strike and has maybe pulled 5 balls all year. I just hear “he takes great at bats!”. OK, I mean, you and I have a much different definition of great at bat. I’d like my cleanup hitter to swing once in a while. Hell I’d go so far as to tell him to go out and ambush a fool on occasion just to show he might.

Continuing to Believe There is No Need for Real Outfielders

How else can I put this? I’m sick to death of watching a team with 7 infielders who could play outfield if they had to. I’m completely fine with DFA of Alford, in fact I’d have never brought him back, but my god, we just watched a rookie jump up from AA last night and look more competent than Cole Tucker has all season. Shoved him right in the game in front of the “tricky” Clemente wall and he handled it just fine.

It’s not the same issue but we saw Ke’Bryan Hayes moved to short stop for the first time as a professional last night when a much easier move would have been to stick Chavis at second and Castillo at short. What the hell are we doing here? Why did we need to see that?

I don’t get the impression Hayes cared all that much, but Chavis made an error on a ball Hayes could have made with his left arm amputated at third, and Michael has legit done well over there so it’s not like I’m against him playing there, just saw it as unneeded. Trying to answer a question nobody had.

Here’s the deal, the Pirates seem to want to ignore who’s on the 40-man as they call up guys like Sulser, or DeJong, do it again and get me Bligh Madris up here. Enough, it’s time for a real honest to god 4 man unit of outfielders. They still won’t be good, but enough of this garbage. It’s very clear Bligh isn’t part of the plans, he almost made the team out of Spring then got shipped to AA for a week or so, on to AAA where he plays the field once a week and DHs the other part. Use him or lose him, you clearly don’t care if you lose him so use him, if he doesn’t work out, DFA him and let him go have a chance somewhere.

Worst case scenario you clear up some space. Best case you maybe hit on a guy who can hit a few dingers on a team that has almost nobody who does so.

In the same breath, how in the world can we not have seen enough of VanMeter? Homerun aside even his facial expressions during at bats tell me he doesn’t have a clue what’s wrong with him. You have two guys in Chavis and Castillo who have done nothing but hit, yet nightly they just sit. I keep hearing it’s because of right handed pitching, yet when they face right handed pitching they take good at bats, put good swings together and produce. Is that suddenly a bad thing in baseball? Are they not young enough to matter for this rebuild? Hell has Chavis not lapped Yoshi for playing time?

This team was given a gift of having some extra room to evaluate some players, and they squander it daily to play a journeyman with very little upside that doesn’t answer a question even if he hits. If 4 at bats were enough to decide Alford still stunk, how many do you need for VanMeter? 50?

That’s what I got today, I’m overall pleased with how this team has overperformed, but I can’t help but feel it could be better if they’d just allow it to happen and get out of the way.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

4 thoughts on “Some Nagging Pirates Issues Plague the Team Early On

  1. I’m with you on this! How they continue to play Van Meter, Yoshi and Tucker with the same tired results. Martin is red hot in Indy as one example. Don’t like how Shelton handles the lineups or the pitching staff.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lots of area to improve the starters need to go 5 innings the long relief is not getting the job done. The offense needs to hit and especially with risp.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m catching up gradually–work’s been quite a mess lately.

    The more the Bucs play light-hitting middle infielders in the outfield, the dumber they look. It’s obviously not working on defense or offense, and no matter how many guys who played shortstop in high school or higher like to bluster about how shortstops can automatically play well anywhere behind the pitcher, it’s simply not true. By high school, the separation between infield and outfield is distinct. That’s not saying guys can’t play both, just that it requires full, separate training and practice for both–they’re fundamentally different. Marisnick, Gamel, even Reynolds have all been underwhelming at bat, but at least they look the part in the field–even if they’re not the fastest, rangiest, etc. outfield anyone ever had.

    VanMeter will never make sense–even with the Newman injury he doesn’t. I’ve no idea why Chavis and Castillo sit. Heaven forbid they excite the fans so that more people might actually watch. I could see giving them a blow once or twice a week, but give me a break.

    You’re right about the good plate appearances not always being such. The context is definitely important–if nobody’s going to drive you in, that should change your approach (and probably the pitcher’s too). How many IBBs did we see with the pitcher on deck? (Too many–thank goodness the DH is finally here.) That said, I do think it’s fine to *take* or *settle* for a walk when given. If a pitcher won’t throw close to the plate, don’t help him, of course. The problem is several Pirates have been *looking* for walks and little to nothing else, as if that’s the entire strategy. I’ve started wondering whether there’s something going on with Tsutsugo–his approach seems markedly different from 2021. I won’t complain about knocking a single to the opposite field with runners on, but it’s weird how hard he seemed to try going opposite way in April.

    Pitching I don’t even want to get into. I’m so done with all the pussyfooting and cutesy nonsense all over the management–lineups and transactions. That shouldn’t be a thing anymore at this stage, and it arguably shouldn’t have been most of last year.

    Liked by 1 person

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