Well, hell – I had to scrap a perfectly good,
750-word piece about the Pittsburgh Pirates anemic offense because they actually did okay in the two games against Cincinnati.
During today’s game I was struck by just how up-and-down the Bucs’ offense has been lately. In particular, just how much better the team’s record would be if they’d provided even just the teeniest bit of run support for poor, poor Paul Maholm – who, despite all of the upbeat and positive things he posts on twitter, has to be shaking his head and grinding his teeth at all of this, at least a little bit. Paulie has gotten a paltry average Run Support of 2.24 per game – 115th and last in Major League Baseball, and more than half a run worse than the pitcher above him (Jeremy Guthrie of BAL, at 2.89). The next lowest Pirates’ starter is James McDonald, who gets an average of 5.13 of support – with the Bucs giving him 5 again today!
Think of it – the Pirates plated 10 runs in the two Cincy games (howzabout THAT, Brennaman?), while scoring only 15 during the recent six-game losing streak.
I am well aware that players have slumps. It’s not exactly news, hasn’t been since well, ever. That the Pirates are doing it in groups, however, is almost maddening. When three guys are hot, four others are not, and vice versa. This group has more ups and downs and twists and turns than The Jackrabbit at Kennywood…
Look – we all knew that there wasn’t going to be a huge amount of improvement in this year’s team over last, but as Popeye was quoted on more than one occasion, “What a revoltin’ developmink this is!” The only hitter that has displayed real, game-to-game consistency is – ready for this? – Steve Pearce, who has had one oh-fer in any game he’s had more than 2 AB’s.
Among our favorite players, Neil Walker’s average has dropped 21 points this month, with only 8 RBI (yes, I’m going with “traditional” stats here), and Andrew McCutchen has raised his 22 points, with nearly as many hits (17) and RBI’s (11) as he had in the whole month of April (21, 12). Jose Tabata has sunk like a stone (16 R, 3 HR and a BA over .265 most of the April) to 2 R, 0 HR and a current BA of .226 in May, while Rockin’ Ronny Cedeno has raised his average 33 points in 18 games, with more hits (16) and twice as many walks (8) as all of April (14, 4). Garrett Jones and Chris Snyder are running cold lately, Lyle Overbay is heating up (a bit, anyway). Ryan Doumit has been moving up too, but even he’s had 4 oh-fers in his last 8 or 9 starts.
Up and down like a seesaw.
Throw Mr. Hurdle’s predilection for bunting in just about any circumstance into the mix, and you have to wonder if the Buccos will ever get out of the bottom 5 in AB’s (15th of 16 in the NL), Batting Avg. (15th), OPS (14th), Hits (14th), Runs (15th) and Strikeouts (14th). Hell we’re even tied with Atlanta for last at getting HBP (5), and the next nearest is double the amount (NYM & SD with 10 each)!! Can’t we freakin’ lean into one once in a while, fer chrissakes? (The first person to mention Jason Kendall gets one high and tight. Rewind yourself.)
You know where we’re in the Top Ten in offensive categories? Walks, with 151 (7th), SB (9th, by 1), and Sacrifice Hits (T-7th). Celebrate the small victories.
If the Pirates’ pitching (including a very good ‘pen) hadn’t kept them in most of the games so far this year, they wouldn’t even be as close to .500 as they are now (and that .500 thing is something I’ll address another time).
Where am I going with all this? I’ll be damned if I know. I’ll tell ya what I do think: as maddening as things have been so far, this team just feels more exciting, overall, than last year’s team. Rarely do I feel the “Sunnuvab- – we’re gonna get blown out again tonight” feeling of recent years; on the contrary – I often get the “There’s a big inning coming” feeling, even if it doesn’t materialize. I’m a Pirate fan, and my belief in this team will never, ever go away as long as I live. I’ll ride the seesaw, because pretty soon, they’re going to start firing on all cylinders.
I just know it.
You can read more of cocktailsfor2′s blather on twitter