Pittsburgh Pirates must use big innings to avoid streaks
The 2015 Pittsburgh are really not too hard to figure out when you look at their game results log over at Baseball Reference. In the span of not-even two full months of play, the Pittsburgh Pirates are living and dying by the streak.
Consider this: the Pirates have enjoyed two separate winnings streaks of four games, two separate losing streaks of four games. They have also endured the pain of a five-game losing streak and the confidence-boost of a five-game winning streak. So why all the inconsistency? What is it about this team that seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition?
One can point to a myriad of answers, but chief among them is clearly the loss of Russell Martin and the effect it has on offensive rallies. For all the improvement shown by Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, et al, sometimes an offense needs to have those one or two innings where they burst out for more than just one run. Today, Dejan Kovacevic said it better than anyone could over at his site, DK on Pittsburgh Sports. From his Friday insider column published today:
"In 2014, Martin was a .290 hitter with a .402 on-base percentage, both figures representing quite a bonus from anyone at his position. So far this season with the Blue Jays, he’s at .297 and .383. That’s a whole lot of Russ on the basepaths and many more chances for an offense to be productive."
Dejan is absolutely right. As we talked about in our podcast yesterday, the big-inning continues to elude the Pirates. I can give you two examples of where the lack of big innings hurts the Pirates profoundly. In the 8-5 loss to the Cardinals back on May 8th, the Cards won the game, but were actually outhit by the Pirates 12-11. The Cardinals enjoyed two separate “big” innings: a three-run third, as well as a four-run seventh. The Bucs on the other hand scored lone runs in five different frames. The Pirates would go on to win the next two games to win that particular series, but this is a microcosm of the Pirates offensive struggles.
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In the recent debacle against Minnesota,the Twins used a big inning to stoke themselves to a 7 run lead before the Pirates began chipping away with their customary one-run innings, including four straight innings in which they scored one run. By not enjoying more productive innings, the Pirates can’t elevate their opposing starter’s pitch counts and get to the other team’s bullpen as quickly (if at all), and cannot maximize the effectiveness of their own lineup.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates to enjoy more winning streaks than losing streaks, they have to start getting more when the shop is set up.