Pittsburgh Pirates takeaways from Brewers series win


Pittsburgh Pirates fans can rejoice.  Their beloved Buccos have won their first series of the year, 2-1, over the Milwaukee Brewers.  Here’s what we learned:

Starling Marte and Josh Harrison need to get right.

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Marte and Harrison are essential cogs to the Pittsburgh Pirates offense, and as of now, one week into the season, both need to make major adjustments.  For Marte, the path is simple:  strike out less.  Marte has struck out 12 times in only 22 at-bats, including a 0-for-4 performance with four Ks on Sunday’s win over the Brewers.  To make things worse, the manner of strikeouts is alarming, with the majority coming on breaking balls, sometimes in the same spots in two consecutive at-bats.  One can wonder if the rest of the NL now has a book on Marte after his stellar second half in 2014, or if he just needs some time to get things right.  In either event, improvement will need to be made soon, or Clint Hurdle may be forced to remove him from the number five spot in the batting order.

For Harrison, the culprit is easier to pin down:  batting average on balls in play.  His .BABIP on the young season is .231, more than 100 points below his breakout 2014 number of .353.  We’ve seen JHay hit some hard balls that have just turned into outs.  While having a much better eye than Marte, Harrison has struck out in 31% of his at-bats this year, double his rate from 2014.  Based on his plate discipline alone, Harrison will get right sooner rather than later, as more of these batted balls drop in for hits.

The Jeff Locke vs Vance Worley battle royale may have been closer than we thought.

Perhaps boosted by winning the final rotation spot over Worley, Locke had an excellent first outing of the year, going for seven innings in the win against the Brewers, while not issuing a walk.  Worley, on the other hand, had a horrendous outing, giving up six earned runs on seven hits, including a home run to light-hitting Jean Segura.

File this under the “raise an eyebrow for now” column, but it will be very interesting to see what happens to this rotation when Charlie Morton comes back.  Another good start by Locke should push him to the forefront of this battle.

Andrew McCutchen may be dealing with this knee issue all year.

During spring training, the Pirates were hush-hush about McCutchen’s injury, borrowing a page from the Pittsburgh Penguins’ playbook by calling it “lower body soreness”.  McCutchen later admitted that the current knee injury is the same one suffered during spring training.   After sitting out a game, Cutch returned  to the lineup the next day, and we all know how that turned out:

McCutchen’s health will be monitored closely throughout the entire season, obviously, but one wonders how this will affect him going forward.  Clint Hurdle had already planned to rest McCutchen more this year, so expect to see a lot more back-to-back days of rest for Cutch, especially if he experiences any flareups.

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