Pirates Bench Overdue For Upgrade


When you watch a Pittsburgh Pirates game this year, the team never seems out of a game.  Dramatic comebacks are the norm for the Pirates with the scenario looking something like this:  get the starter out of the game, beat the bullpen while relying on the sharktank to stifle any thoughts of a comeback by the bad guys.

The trade deadline is a few weeks away, but we noticed something last night.  Much has been made about the Bucs weakness in right field.  Another dead spot has been the Pirates bench.

As we wrote in March,

"we believe in the core of this team.  Marte, McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez and even Martin should allow the offense to improve over their poor 26th-best-in-the-league last season.  But the offense just doesn’t appear strong enough without career years and some surprises in the pitching staff.  And that bench–ugh."

Face it.  Clint Hurdle‘s bench sucks.

Last night, beyond Gaby Sanchez, the Bucs had Micheal McKenry (.609 OPS), Clint Barmes (.511 OPS) and fan-favorite Brandon Inge (.498 OPS) last night to pinch hit.  So it was pretty easy for Charlie Manuel to do his thing without much concern.

Let’s trust that doesn’t become a blue-print for success for the bad guys to mix and match against the Bucs bench which we’ve seen a bit of throughout the season.  The Pirates have been able to have their core eventually come through–example-Sunday when Russell Martin delivered the big hit after the shark tank put the Brewers offense on operation shutdown.

When you look at the ESPN breakdown of successful pinch hitting teams in the National League here is what you have:

The NL average is .230.  The Bucs are batting .195  The Cards are hitting below average at .221 while the Reds are flying high with a .291 average from the pinch swingers.  One reason for the Reds is Donald Lutz success as a pinch hitter.  Until his first big league callup on April 29, Lutz had not played above Double-A.

So we went looking for some good pinch hitters, but were surprised to find that such a thing isn’t easy to find as Rob Neyer pointed out.

Elias notes that American League pinch hitters have been pathetically bad the past five years.  They hit .219, .208, .206, .216, and .207, respectively.

The best AL Pinch Hitters based on a minimum of 20 at bats in 2012 according to Elias were not actually ‘best,’ but anyway, here you go:

Raul Ibanez who went 8-for-25–good for a .320 average. Seth Smith of Oakland who was 4-for-20 or good for a whoppping .200.  Andruw Jones went 4-for-22 which is just a .182

Players who didn’t get enough at bats to qualify were Tampa Bay’s Jeff Keppinger who had five hits in nine AB.  Luke Scott with five hits in 12 AB.  Old Bucco Brandon Moss who had five knocks in 10 AB with the Athletics.

Finding a pinch hitter might be out of the question for the Pirates at the deadline.  The bench should improve a bit today with the likely recall of Jose Tabata who didn’t actually tear the cover off the ball during his rehab in Indy.

But to be a successful bat off the bench for the Bucs, Clint Hurdle isn’t asking for a whole lot.  About anything right now would be an improvement.