We won’t make you wait for it–the answer to our headline question is this: The Pirates score about as often as a shitty soccer team.
Of course, the talk around the water cooler is the Pittsburgh Pirates and what appeared to be a rather flat, boring, lackluster Opening Day display by the Bucs and their hometown sellout crowd. We can’t say a whole lot about the team on the field, but as for those in the stands, well, we say this—What the hell do you expect us to do?
As always, we apologize for our tweets you will be seeing this season. Exhibit A from Opening Day below:
After an offseason in which the Pirates did very little to improve the ballclub’s glaring problem of scoring runs, it’s about all we had in us. One would think with so much on the line in 2013, more urgency would have filled the past few cold winter months. Having players that can get on base and actually run swiftly and smartly enough to eventually cross the plate is still important in the game of baseball.
Obviously, our definition of urgency and Bob Nutting’s definition are very different.
We know it’s very expensive to acquire quality pitching talent. We know it makes little sense to push Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon into the line of duty at the MLB level before they are prepared. Cole didn’t pitch in Spring Training like a guy that demanded to be brought to the big leagues, anyway. Sorry, the kid still needs some salt tossed on him before he’s ready. To us, it’s less about Super Two and another year in his prime, and more about “Is he even ready to succeed at the Triple-A level?” Cole won’t be in Pittsburgh until he takes care of that checklist given to him by Ray Searage and the boys.
So, knowing that scoring runs was a weakness, why not add a player that could help a glaring need for the ballclub? They could have done it this winter, or hell, even yesterday for all we give a shit. Someone with the ability to get on-base should have been a priority. It’s a pretty simple theory. Find a player that is fast. A player that is smart, young, and patient. Instead of doing that, the Pirates added Brandon Inge and John McDonald. Fast? No. Smart? Definitely. Young. Hell, no. Patient. Umm… No.
But the Bucs got the so-called “Prime Minister of Defense,” and another guy with “veteran presence” in Inge. But of course instead of really adding Inge, the team will hold on to Josh Harrison until Inge is healed. We all lose.
Scoring more runs than the other team is something the ballclub has tried and failed at for twenty years. And more quietly, it’s something that the current regime has failed to do on a very consistent basis, and all the while, the roster slowly grows in age. When we look at the Opening Day lineup, it’s strange to see a team so reliant on the long ball while being so weak at getting on base. Just look at the leadoff hitter? Starling Marte is many things, but an on-base machine he is not. Well, not yet, anyway.
The big weakness we see on this club is this bench, highlighted by the continued love affair with Josh Harrison. It’s taking away the opportunity for somebody, hell, anybody that is young, smart, fast, and can get on freaking base.
Just like a pimple-faced, 120-pound freshman at the prom, the Buccos ain’t scoring. It was funny listening (for some reason) to Vinnie and Cook today on 93.7 The Fan. New York Vinnie said he was sitting with a friend and after the first inning he wondered why the fans started heading toward the exit steps.
Well, let us try and explain.
The Pirates had just squandered a first-inning golden opportunity to make the Chicago Cubs pay the price for booting a baseball. It’s hard to watch–has been for a few years, in case you haven’t noticed.
So the fans head to the pisser – because, you know, it takes a lot of barley and hops to watch a bunch of guys that can’t score. And then once those fans suddenly become stimulated by some action, you know all the other things involved in an Opening Day away from the diamond–beer, hot girls, t-shirts, beer, 50/50 raffles, brunch burgers and the BBQ pulled pork without any barbecue sauce, it takes a while to stumble back to your seat.
And when those fans finally did get back to their seats–they watched what they watched so often last April. The Pirates just aren’t an offensive juggernaut. Last April, the Pirates were the worst team in Major League Baseball at doing the thing that is so very important in the game of baseball. Scoring runs.
Now, of course being thrown out on the base-paths is a bad, bad thing. The Pirates were really good at getting thrown out stealing bases last season–Pre-All-Star break, the Bucs stole 48 bases and were thrown out 30 times. Post- All-Star break, the Bucs stole 25 bases and were thrown out 22 times.
One observation we had is that the Pirates still really suck at running the bags. If you recall, Starling Marte reached base immediately against The Shark by working a walk off the Cubs right-hander in the bottom of the first inning. The Cubs put a shift on for number two hitter Garrett Jones. Unfortunately, GFJ dribbled a grounder to second. Fortunately, it was booted by the second baseman. Unfortunately, Starling Marte didn’t notice what the shift had created.
The Buccos swift left fielder could have reached third base – we think easily – because the Cubs were very late in even trying to cover the bag due to the shift. Let’s trust that Clint Hurdle, or probably Rick Sofield saw that play. This Pirates team has little speed in it’s lineup, but either coaches need to scream louder, or maybe base runners can borrow Ben Roethlisberger’s helmet with the speakers inside.
We don’t think there is any reason to talk about bunting away outs at any great length. Most everyone knows our opinion. Bunting sucks. But let’s also remember: Clint Hurdle has gone on the record during this RumBunter Podcast saying he’s not a big fan of bunting. “It’s not like I went into Ron Washington’s office and banged on the desk saying, Ron – we need to bunt more!”
We think with the current roster, Hurdle might feel like he doesn’t have many other options beside giving up outs. Maybe bunting into those, ‘third base is wide open’ shifts will be something the Pirates work on moving forward, because falling behind 0-1 is always a good strategy. We’re joking around, of course, but it seems obvious that certain Pirates are going to see a shift consistently this season. How they respond will be crucial.
Look, we hate being “doom and gloom-ers.” It’s certainly possible to recover from a slow April start. The Oakland A’s and Washington Nationals also scored rarely last April–68 and 74 runs, respectively. Those teams turned out o.k. But in the Pirates case, it would be best to avoid it, because this Pirates version of offensive baseball sucks worse than soccer.
A couple solutions to the Bucs problems:
Andrew McCutchen can’t go without a homer, as he did last April. He walked five times and struck out 17 in April of 2012. It will take a hot-hitting Cutch for the Bucs to survive a brutal April.
Pedro Alvarez hitting five bombs again this April will help. Petey walked three times and struck out 23 times last April. He drove in the lone run of the game yesterday.
The team must hit better than the .228/.282/.337 line they put up last April. The Bucs struck out 166 times and worked just 48 walks (worst in MLB).
Teach someone to lean into a few pitches.
A repeat performance from Garrett Jones, who looked rough yesterday, is needed. Jones had 13 hits with three doubles and three bombs last April, but walked just once.
The Pirates need to work counts, even if they don’t work walks–it was so obvious on Opening Day when Samardzija got out of the seventh and was able to come back in the eighth and cruise.