Apr 17, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Gaby Sanchez (17) is greeted at home plate by right fielder Travis Snider (23) after Sanchez hit a solo home run against the Milwaukee Brewers during the eighth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 11-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Pirates Showing Critics They Can Hit For Power


The Pirates need to go get another bat, the Pirates have too many holes in the lineup, the Pirates need to upgrade first base and right field…. said every talk show host in Pittsburgh for the last three months.  (yawn)

Well, I’m no expert like them, but last time I checked this lineup is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball.

The Pirates have 23 round-trippers so far this year.  That is first in the NL and 2nd best in the entire Major Leagues (24 LA Angels).   Again, I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s good.  Especially considering the Pirates only hit 26 Home Runs in all of April last year AND McCutchen hasn’t even really joined the party yet.

So where’s this surge of power coming from?

Well, I know where it’s NOT coming from.  Surely not from the right side of the field.  That area, as we all know by now, is nothing more than a pitiful, stench-filled, abyss that house players fully incapable of contributing any type of real production.

Right?

Obviously, the bull is heading the stampede.  Pedro has 6 Home Runs.  Tied for the MLB lead in that category and don’t expect that to slow down one bit.

What’s more impressive to me about El Toro this year aside from the power, is simply how he is playing the game.  He’s turning into a leader.  The maturation of Pedro is happening right in front of our eyes.

Have you noticed how he runs to first base lately, even during routine ground balls?  Full sprint.  How about his secondary lead when he’s standing on first?  Text book.   He’s setting the example for the rest of the team and the example is:  Play the game at 100%……100% of the time.  No exceptions.

And THAT friends… is what makes championship teams.

When your most talented players are the ones that are out there showing the most hustle, the most effort, and doing all of the little things that it takes to win games.   That will inevitably trickle down to the rest of the players on the team and before you know it, everyone is giving 100%…100% of the time… and that is when something special starts to happen.

Exceptional work El Toro.  Keep it up.

Let’s look at what Neil Walker has done so far.   5 Home Runs and the season just got started.  Granted, the Pittsburgh Kid hit a career high 16 last year, but Neil’s never hit more than 3 dingers in the month of April in his entire career.  He’s sitting at 5 with a dozen games to go!

For those of you who read the articles and listen to the Big Tuna Show, I predicted this would be a career year for Neil, but I didn’t think it would come via the long ball.  I’ll certainly take it however.

Well done Neil.  Keep it up.

What about the other production… where did the other 12 home runs come from.  Certainly we didn’t get any from first base or right field.  Everyone knows those two positions are veritable production black holes that will eventually swallow up the Pirates hopes of ever having a winning season.

Isn’t that right Pittsburgh Pirate (so called) experts?

Too bad stats trump bad opinions every time.  And so far, those two positions have combined for 7 of the 23 home runs, 16 runs scored, and 15 RBI’s.

Travis Snyder already has 3, which is one more than he had all of last season.  Not only is he starting to show the pop that endless numbers of scouts had predicted that he could have at the major league level, but he’s also showing maturity at the plate.

Instead of trying to pull everything, Snyder has learned to use the entire field and just take what the pitcher gives him.  Is he going to be an All-star this season?  No.  But the bottom line is that we are seeing a vastly improved hitter so far this year.

So what about first base?  The lowly platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Travis Ishiawa has combined for 4 home runs and 8 RBI’s.  Third best production at the plate from any position in the field.  Gaby is a beast.  Plain and simple.  The more at bats he gets… the better he will hit.

As I’ve said many times.  This is, in fact, an improved offensive team  and it will continue to improve throughout the season even without the acquisition of a “big name” free agent.

Expect the Pirate’s numbers to be better in almost every major hitting category compared to 2013, with the end result putting us right in the middle of the pack in the Major Leagues in those categories.

Just don’t say I didn’t tell you so.

For real Pirate insight follow me on twitter @TheBigTuna66 and tune in to The Big Tuna show every Sunday before the game on H4TV for predictions including 0/U.  12-4 so far this year on Pirate picks. 

Tags: Featured Image Neil Walker Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Scott

    Aren’t the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League?

  • ResistanceIsUseless

    As Scott pointed out, the Dodgers are in the NL. If they had 24 HR’s at this point, the Bucs would be 2nd in the NL. It’s the Angels who have 24 HR’s and lead MLB.

    The HR’s are nice, and it seems some people think they’re all that matters. In spite of the HR’s, the team is only 6th in the league in runs scored. That is because the Pirates are 13th in BA and 10th in OBP. A couple example games that demonstrate the problem: The loss in Chicago on April 9 when the team hit 5 solo HR’s, but did not score otherwise, and the Cincinnati rain delay game (April 14 & 15) when the Pirates hit 6 HR’s – all solo – and only scored 8 runs and essentially needed “extra innings” (vs. having it decided as a rain shortened game) to get the win. HR’s tend to come in bunches, and I expect it’s only a matter of time until the team goes through a dry spell. To deal with this – and improve productivity when the HR’s are coming – the Pirates need to work on getting on base more.

    This is a continuation of last season’s biggest issue when the Pirates were 3rd in the league in HR’s, but below average in runs scored (and have had similar issues for at least a couple seasons before that). People like to point at the hitting coach, but we’re now on the 3rd one in as many years. I suspect some of it is Hurdle, who was described during his first season as the de facto hitting coach and I believe that’s probably still true. Also, the over emphasis on HR’s in the modern game probably affects the players’ hitting approaches.