The Pirates have had a nice start to the year so far. They’re 35-22, and lost only one series over the whole month of May (to the Nationals). This is a great place to be as a Pirates fan, and it’s clear that this team is better than last year’s team. At the same point last year, the team was 30-27, not bad at all, but still a five game difference. It’s great to be able to complain about a team that’s thirteen games over .500, so that’s what we’re going to do.
The Pirates offense is bad. They rank Twenty-Third in baseball in runs scored this year, twenty-fifth in batting average, twenty-third in on base percentage, twenty-third in slugging percentage, and twenty-fourth in OPS.
The Pirates pitching (while looking somewhat unsustainable) has been nothing short of spectacular this year so far. They’re second in ERA, fifth in strikeouts, and tied for second in WHIP.
If the Pirates are going to break the streak this year, and contend for a spot in the playoffs, the offense absolutely must pick things up more. In nearly every major pitching stat where the Pirate rank highly, either Cincinnati or St. Louis sits ahead of them at this point.
The pitching has been great, but Cincinnati and St. Louis both have pitching that’s nearly as good or better, to go along with offenses that are significantly better as well (the Reds and Cardinals rank eighth and ninth respectively in runs scored this year, compared to the Pirates twenty-third). The Pirates simply won’t be able to keep pace with these teams down the stretch unless the offense starts producing not just more runs, but more runs on a consistent basis.
Back on June 1st, Tom posted an article explaining why he wasn’t “Drinking the Pirates Kool-Aid” and for the most part, he’s right. If the Pirates don’t fix a few of the big holes, they won’t be able to keep up with the two best teams in their division, who are also the two best teams in baseball this year.
Can they finish with a winning record? We’d certainly hope and expect so, as we said before, they’re a better team than last year, when they went 79-83, but if the offense doesn’t start producing more, especially when the inevitable regression of the pitching happens, they won’t be a playoff team.
If the Pirates get more consistent and greater production from the bats, they can contend. If they use winning games 1-0 as their template for winning, eventually it’s going to fall apart. Pitching is the first piece in a successful baseball club, but it needs run support too. Hopefully A.J. Burnett gets some tonight against Atlanta, because that’ll be the place to start.