Great Scot: Episode 11 – Pittsburgh Pirates: How to Fix The Problem


I get asked quite a bit if I think the Pirates are “done” this season and my answer is always the same, “Absolutely not”.  If the team were to go on one hot streak and get themselves back to .500 after the month of May, the road seemingly gets a little bit easier as far as scheduling goes for the remainder of the season.  Let’s think about how difficult a month the Pirates really had.

The Brewers were an absolutely on-fire team and have had the best record in all of Major League Baseball and so far, we are 1-6 against them.  The Cardinals always play us tough, going 3-3 against them. We had a couple series against the Cubs(4-2) and Reds(3-5).  I would take a guess the Brewers won’t still be as tough a team moving forward and will fall back to Earth.  The Cardinals will continue to be a good team but we can play with them.  The Reds will be an up and down team but I suspect we’ll finish .500 against them or just around it and I think we will definitely win the series pretty handily over the Cubs.

Don’t get me wrong, the month of May is a hard month of baseball with series coming up against Toronto, San Francisco, Yankees and Dodgers, if the Pirates can catch some fire and be right around .500 come June, they will be just fine.

Another question being thrown around Twitter is “When will Gregory Polanco arrive?”.  The simple answer is, once Super Two status passes, Polanco will get called up to the team.  He is already past the point where we can control him for another year, however for a small market team that would like to keep him at a controllable cost in his prime years, it’s worth keeping him down for another six weeks.

The other huge question that is asked is how does management fix the current Pirates team?  The answer is more simple than you would think.  Play better, be coached better.  Be honest, when Josh Harrison hit his 2 run HR to win the game a couple weeks ago, the first couple pitches before that when he couldn’t get a bunt down?  Do you remember?  All was forgiven when he hit the home run but what we should be paying attention to is, the Pirates are not hitting in situations where a bunt is needed or a simple base hit is needed or a hit and run is called upon.  Basically, the crux of the problem is the team has no concept of the basics.

Sure, the Pirates can hit home runs, but they should be trying to get a simple hit or a hit and run which is much easier to expect and to execute.  If the Pirates were better at situational hitting, they would have a much better record.  If this is not fixed and soon, it’s going to be a very long season for the team.  The only player now that is starting to hit for situation is Andrew McCutchen but the sad reality is, while home runs are nice, situational hitting is much more important.

Manager Clint Hurdle and Hitting Coach Jeff Branson have to start instilling in these guys to go up and hit based upon the situation and if they happen to connect for the long ball, so be it.  One final question I get asked a lot recently is, what line-up would I use when Polanco comes up?  (note: this only includes the current roster with including Polanco.  I’ll also throw in how I believe the team should be aligned in the field as well.

  1. Starling Marte – RF
  2. Andrew McCutchen – LF
  3. Gregory Polanco – CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez – 3B
  5. Neil Walker – 2B
  6. Ike Davis – 1B
  7. Tony Sanchez – C
  8. Jordy Mercer – SS

Marte makes the most sense leading off.  From the outfielders, he has the least power and can also reach base at a high rate(not currently, I know).  I like McCutchen batting 2nd, he can move Marte into scoring position, he can drive in runs as it comes back around the line-up and he gains an extra at-bat every two games.  Polanco may end up a better hitter than McCutchen and I have him in CF because he has a much stronger arm.  Pedro belongs at the clean-up hitter but he needs to stay patient and look for his pitch and mistakes.  I want Walker behind Pedro as it’s nice to have lefty after lefty after lefty against right-handed pitchers and the ability to have left-right-left-right against lefties.  Even though I would have liked to see Lambo get a real shot and not just spring training when pitchers are working on specific pitches, Ike Davis is here for the time being and he is injury prone a little so I’ll still hold this spot for Lambo moving forward.  Tony Sanchez and Russell Martin both should be hitting 7th to help clean up the 2nd part of the batting order with Jordy Mercer being a potentially good compliment hitter to get the pitcher up so he doesn’t lead off the next inning.

I guess we will see if the Pirates have a much better month come May or if we’ll be holding on by a thread once Polanco does arrive.  The answer is simple to the team’s problem really is simple.  Do you now know what it is?