Why I'm Not Drinking The Pittsburgh Pirates Kool-Aid

Johnny Cueto brings out the worst in the Pittsburgh Pirates.  And in us.  The right-hander has a knack for owning the Bucs offense to the tune of a .204 batting average, which has added up to thirteen wins in 21 career starts against the Pirates.

The Pirates offense has been held in check recently and the runs have been hard to come by as the strikeouts ticked upward and the hits ticked downward.   Of course, the Detroit Tigers pitching staff can do that to a lineup like the Buccos.

But taking a look at the Pirates, we still have concerns.

Starling Marte is hitting below .200 in his past ten games.  We think he will come out of the tailspin, but he was over his head early this season.  The bad guys have adjusted.  It’s hard to imagine him being that hot for that long again in 2013.  But it’s nice to know all of that talent is in that 6’2″ frame.  A few days off could certainly help the youngster.

The thought of Alex Presley getting the start as the fourth outfielder is a bit concerning, even though we’re big fans of the Crüe walk up music.

The ballclub misses Jose Tabata.  Even though Joe was struggling against lefties, the bat was playing against right-handers.   Tabata can’t get back quickly enough.

Travis Snider has had some big hits this month–three doubles, two triples and two bombs.  But Lunchbox also has only hit .188 in his past ten games.  The .799 OPS on 60 April at-bats shrunk in May.  Snider put up a .675 OPS in May over 80 at-bats.  June and July will be big months for Snider, but we’re still a bit skeptical.

We think Pedro Alvarez eventually will get it going as he has over his last seven games.  El Toro has an OPS of 1.098 in those games, but has just one walk.  When you look at his 2013 numbers, Alvarez has the lowest walk rate of his career at 7.4 percent, while having the highest strikeout rate of his career at nearly 34 percent.   We are waiting for The Big Bull to take over.

Garrett Jones is 6-for-his-last 30.  GFJ’s  walks are down below ML average and his strikeout rate is two points higher than the ML average.  Another thing to note is his BABIP which is .324, well above the ML average of .296.  Some regression from Jones should be expected, but we are also dying to see the power.

Gaby Sanchez is just 4-for-his last 22, although he is hitting .323 against southpaws.  Gaby, Gaby, Hey has shown plate discipline and has a walk rate nearly double the ML average while maintaining his strikeout rate at 20 percent.  But after four bombs in April, Sanchez hit none in May.  The Bucs need power from Sanchez to go along with his solid defense.

When Andrew McCutchen is a bit off–ten strikeouts in the last ten games–it impacts the Bucs.  So much pressure is on McCutchen this season, in spite of the Bucs’ brass getting some lineup protection for the center fielder.  After getting off to the worst start of his career, the Silver Slugger is still struggling with runners in scoring position.  It’s hard not to think he’s pressing a bit because he realizes the offense needs run production.  But shit…he’s still hitting .342 in the past ten despite those ten strikeouts.

Clint Barmes is hitting .111 in his last ten games.  #AlwaysSmooth is swinging at pitches outside the zone at an alarming rate once again.  Well, actually, that’s not new.  Barmes has loved to swing the bat freely and it’s happening once again this year–Barmes sits about 39 percent.  The ML average is 29 percent [Baseball Solutions]

Much is being made about the clubhouse atmosphere.  It’s cool to see the Shark Tank.  It’s funny to see Brandon Inge rollerblading in the clubhouse.  Wearing the Penguins jerseys was a great story.  That stuff matters, we really think it does.

But Brandon Inge is still on the ballclub.  And thanks to his check swing hit last night the Bucs didn’t get no-hit, and Inge raised his average to .105 over the past ten games.

Michael McKenry hit .316 in April.  But after a lot of work in the month of May, the exposure was evident.  The Fort struggled mightily to put up a .589 OPS on nine hits.

John McDonald is lurking.

Mike Zagurski is coming out of the bullpen in situations like last night when the bullpen is taxed.

It would have been a perfect opportunity for Jeff Karstens, but the injury to the Zombie is an underlying factor that will impact the Buccos.  A game like last night is going to happen, the team will be behind and will need the long man to hold down the bad guys.  It didn’t happen last night, and looking forward it’s impossible for us to believe the pen as it’s currently made up will succeed.

The Kyle McPherson injury will impact the ballclub.  How nice would McFear have looked getting some innings in 2013?  James McDonald and Charlie Morton look like big question marks, too.  Both right-handers make crucial rehab starts over the next couple days which could start to answer some depth questions in the pitching staff.

Wandy Rodriguez is still piling up the deep fly ball outs–and homeruns.  Jeanmar Gomez and Jeff Locke are dazzling.  Ahem.

It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to us right now.  It’s hard to imagine this is all reality.

The pitching seems too good.  The pitchers seem invincible at times.  It can’t stay that way.

The hitting seems really bad.   The team can hit.  It just hasn’t yet.

And when the pitching levels out and the hitting levels out, it’s hard to imagine the team being strong enough to be one of the best teams in the National League.  The Bucs have to be one of the best playing in the division with the Cardinals and Reds.  They have their work cut out for them.

“Feelings aren’t fact.  We have to find some more offense, and we will.”  Clint Hurdle

Damn, that would be nice, because it’s like 90 degrees and some Pittsburgh Pirates Kool-Aid would taste great.  We will settle for Kool and the Gang instead, I guess.

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