Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

2-27-23 – By Gary Morgan – @garymo2007 on Twitter

Well, by the time you read this the Pirates will have played two games, but as I sit down to write it, I’ve got the knowledge that comes with one. In other words, don’t expect a pitch by pitch examination of the roster and what it’s done so far.

As bad as Miguel Andujar and Nick Gonzales looked in their first game, nobody is making a decision on anything quite yet. I will say, for players like these who were already on the outside looking in, games like this certainly aren’t going to make the view any clearer.

Spring is here, baseball is back, let’s go….

1. Accepting the Rule Changes

MLB changed quite a few things this year, and I’m sure I’ll expand on my thought regarding some of them soon. In fact I know I will in this week’s Q&A on Wednesday, but something struck me watching the first Spring game on Saturday.

The presentation on TV is going to be almost as important as the rule changes themselves. If you watched, the camera view was set back a bit, allowing you to see a pitch clock on both sides of the home plate area. To me, if you want this to just become “normal” or at least accepted, you probably don’t want to have that pasted on the screen in every shot.

They can add it to the little box score graphic or whatever, but I’ve watched a lot of baseball, if I’m struggling to focus on the actual at bat, I have to imagine others find themselves staring at these running clocks instead as well. To me, for this rule to really work, I kinda just want to see the results of the rule, not the ticking clock all game long.

Cause I’ll be honest, if you take those clocks away, it just looks more like the game I grew up with. Get the ball, throw the ball. Take a swing, get back in your stance. You know, just baseball.

I think all in all, in the regular season, we simply won’t see many of the controversial things people are super scared of like the out call on a hitter not being ready, or the free ball repeatedly. A month to get ready should be fine to work out the kinks.

As a fan, I think we’ll notice this most in high drama situations. Bottom of the 9th, 2 guys on, 2 outs, pitcher staring in, hitter gripping the handle, I can see that seeming, well, less emotional than what we’re accustomed to. There just isn’t time for it.

More on this Wednesday, I promise, I just feel it’s not fair to really hammer it after seeing it once, especially since universally my MiLB contacts, have told me it worked quite well down there after they got going.

It also might help if the announcers didn’t act like it was destroying their ability to tell their silly stories, or have time to mess around with interviews in game. I mean a simple change they could make is to do the lineups and defensive alignment information before first pitch instead of trying to force it in as the first batter is hitting. Maybe more split screen stuff would help. The gimmicks baseball broadcasts employ will take a real hit here, arguably more than the game itself.

2. Your First Look at Jared Triolo

Some of you probably watch some minor league ball, especially those of you who live close to one of the affiliates, but for the vast majority, seeing Jared Triolo in his first Spring action on Saturday was the first time you really saw him.

I have watched him, but not enough to claim I’m all in on him or know what he’ll be. His teammates though, man, they’re out here making comps like Kris Bryant, and when you see him step up to the plate, damn, I can see it ya know?

I’ve never seen him having that type of power, still don’t, but I’m also not going to argue with Bryan Reynolds here. After all, he’s the one who called out last year AA Jack Suwinski was his pick to click.

Making this team is probably not likely, but his glove is more than ready, if he starts hitting like his frame says he should, my goodness. I’m legitimately excited to see him get some more opportunity.

3. David Bednar’s Struggles

Look, before I start here, the two homeruns David gave up in the first Spring game aren’t remotely effecting this concern for me. Those of you who REALLY watch Spring Training baseball, well you all know it’s not the same as a regular season game. Bednar for instance threw all fastballs, and he didn’t have his signature velocity for the entire outing at that.

In other words, he was tasked with working on a pitch, as opposed to all his pitches, and while I’m quite sure he’d prefer those lead to K’s or weak fly balls, a couple got ripped.

The concern for David’s health and performance goes back to last year. Everyone in camp is saying the right things about Bednar’s back, but I need to see more. This guy hasn’t looked right since his 50 pitch outing in LA last year, and just because he’s a local guy and we all love his personality shouldn’t mean we just scratch his name in as closer and stop observing the issues.

For a team trying to show improvement to their record in 2023, the last thing they need to do is ignore what’s not going right with a guy and waste a few trying to not hurt feelings. This club has options for the closer role, none bigger than Colin Holderman who has his own history with the IL.

David is 28 years old, he’ll turn 29 this season. He reaches arbitration next year and becomes a free agent in 2027. I simply don’t see him as an extension consideration if I’m honest. Even if he were dominant for the next 4 years, it’s really hard to pretend you could go much more than a couple years of FA with a 33 year old closer once he gets there. And I’m not sure closer is where I’d have them spend their dollars.

Fans tend to talk about him like he’s a save or two short of Josh Hader (who also fell off the table at some point) but the fact is he’s got all of 22 saves in this league and this team is in no position to anoint anyone.

I hope this whole thought is wasted energy, it’d be great to see him round back into form and deliver, but if he doesn’t, I also really hope sentimentality doesn’t stop them from making a change.

From his debut to now, he’s relied on his 4-seam fastball and curveball, while decreasing the use of his split finger. We’ll see how that plays out this year, but there’s no denying, the league went from slugging his heater in 2021 to the tune of .350 all the way to .415 in 2022. And the spin was up, so it’s not like he changed the pitch drastically.

No matter what, try to take off the yinzer glasses and really watch him. I for one remain concerned until proven otherwise.

4. Not a Great Start for the Offense

Oh I know, they scored 7 runs, that’s awesome, but 16 strikeouts, man a bit too much Déjà vu for me. This team struck out far too often last year, and to see them come out in game one and lay down 16 of them, man.

That’s just not encouraging. I acknowledge it’s the first game, I acknowledge pitchers are almost always ahead of hitters this time of year, Zach Thompson not withstanding, but I’d like to see strikeouts at least come from a competitive at bat, and I simply didn’t see enough of those.

Every team in the league knows putting the ball in play more often is going to be important with the rule changes, so if this team winds up in the top third of the league again in K’s, well, let’s just say the record they produce shouldn’t surprise us.

There are some positives here. Jack Suwinski who was a strikeout machine in 2022 had two good at bats and didn’t whiff once. That said, he was a bright spot in the middle of what was a pretty sloppy looking offensive attack.

It needs cleaned up this year, and yes, it’s squarely on the shoulders of Andy Haines. As I said last year, we’re coming off a historically poor offensive season, and while it’s early, I can’t imagine his leash is all that long.

It’s too early for trends, or pretending it means more than a bunch of guys getting 1 or 2 at bats, against 1 or 2 pitchers, but let’s just say, what I’m quite sure was a priority entering the season, well, it didn’t start out how anyone would like.

5. Some Things Falling into Place

It would seem the Pirates have decided Bryan Reynolds should be a left fielder, and to be blunt, the analytics community had him back over there more than a season ago. It’s not that he’s a poor fielder, but he’s better in left and even with the open contract situation taking place, they’ve made the switch. I’m fairly certain he’ll still get some games there, but I’m equally not sold on Jack Suwinski being the CF. Let’s see how they handle it.

Henry Davis has loudly only brought one glove to camp, a catcher’s mitt, while Endy Rodriguez has been practicing at 1B, 2B and C. Austin Hedges has spent considerable time with both youngsters. Davis in particular might as well be wearing one of those toddler leashes you see at Disney World. He’s 2 steps behind him all day every day. That’s what you wanna see out of the vets.

Carlos Santana has started right out the gate at 1B as it would appear Ji-man Choi isn’t fully ready yet, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, it’s why the Pirates protested him playing in the WBC.

Andrew McCutchen in Right field is a thing, and he acknowledged as much on the broadcast today. I don’t think they can hope to maximize what he can provide if they try to play him in the field at a starter’s level, so I’d think he’s still pegged for DH more often than not.

If you see Connor Joe as fringy, I think you might want to reevaluate. He’s as close to a lock as just about anyone. He’s got a couple seasons of experience, and at least until someone shows they’re pushing, I see no reason to think he won’t be on the roster when they go North.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

One thought on “Five Pirates Thoughts at Five

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: