The Pittsburgh Pirates are a streaky team, and May defined that. The team’s offense is starting to come around after slow starts from multiple position players in April, while the starting pitching staff is currently one of the best in all of baseball. Let’s dig a little deeper into the month of May and see how the Pirates truly fared.
The team went into May with a 12-10 record, sitting in third place in the National League Central division, one game behind the second-place Cubs and 3.5 games behind the first-place Cardinals. They did, however, technically occupy the second Wild Card spot, sitting a half-game up on the Rockies.
At the end of May, the Pirates sat at 26-24, having gone 14-14 and played .500 ball over the course of the month. The team was still in third place in the NL Central, and was also still one game behind the second-place Cubs. The Cardinals, however, increased their division lead to six games over the Cubs and seven games over the Pirates. The Pirates fell out of the second Wild Card spot (although it is still early) and sat 1.5 games behind the New York Mets for that final spot.
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During the month of May, Pirates’ pitchers continued to dominate, ranking third in the NL in ERA (3.11), fifth in saves (eight), and fifth in batting average against (.250). However, the team sat in the middle of the pack at seventh in both walks (83) and strikeouts (226). Essentially, the pitching staff as a whole put up great results that has made it one of the best in baseball so far this season.
The offense, although not as great as the pitching, did still manage to hold its own in May. The team ranked sixth in the NL in runs (119), while it sat in the top five in hits (266), doubles (58), total bases (401), batting average (.268), on-base percentage (.332), and OPS (.735). The team did rank 11th in home runs with just 25, however. The offense contributed and helped put together many hot streaks and big games during the past month. A lack of consistency led to a .500 record, though.
For the Pirate starters, A.J. Burnett led the team in ERA (1.82), WHIP (1.11), wins (five), and innings pitched (39.2). Francisco Liriano continues to dominate with with his strikeout totals, leading all Pirate pitchers with 45 and an 11.46 K/9 rate. Tony Watson led all relievers and all pitchers with a perfect ERA of 0.00 over 14 innings pitched in May and in WHIP at 0.67.
The offense contribute in and helped put together many hot streaks and big games during the past month. A lack of consistency led to a .500 record, though.
Francisco Cervelli ought to be take the nickname “Hit Collector” as he continues to rake in the hits this season. He led all Pirate batters with a .377 average and a .455 OBP in May. Andrew McCutchen began heating up with the weather and led the team in slugging percentage (.566), OPS (.985), total bases (60), and doubles (ten). He also tied for the team lead in RBIs with Starling Marte (17) and home runs with Pedro Alvarez (five). Gregory Polanco stole the most bases on the team with six while Pedro led in walks with 15.
On the non-productive side of the offense, Marte and Pedro both led the way with 24 strikeouts. Jordy Mercer had the lowest average among position players at .188 as he continues to see less and less time in a starting role. Corey Hart had the lowest OBP (.190), slugging percentage (.200), and OPS (.390). Both Mercer and Hart have been disappointments so far this season, to say the least.
Out of players with at least 20 at-bats in May, Cervelli had the highest average in the entire National League and the fourth highest OBP. Tony Watson, obviously with his ERA at 0.00, tied for the NL lead in ERA.
Overall, the Pittsburgh Pirates did well on both sides of the field in the month of May. However, that production only led to a .500 record at 14-14. The team will need to be more consistent offensively while hoping that the great pitching it has received so far will continue. Hopefully a hot start to June is in the future of the Pirates.