The Pittsburgh Pirates offense: how far can it take the team?


Perhaps the effects of an offensively lackluster weekend against the Nationals still lingers. Perhaps the struggles of Jordy Mercer, Pedro Alvarez, and Neil Walker are more than fans can take. Whatever the reason, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense is the chief concern of many Pirates fans. With the trade deadline one month away, speculation is ramping up. Ask three different fans the same question – What is the Pirates biggest need? – and you may just get three different answers.

“We sure could use an everyday 1B we can rely on.”

“I’m not sold on Gregory Polanco in RF. Maybe he wasn’t ready afterall.”

“Walker isn’t doing ANYTHING this year! He’s lucky he’s from Pittsburgh!”

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You get the idea. For all of the great work put in by the Pirates pitching staff, there has been some equally inept work by some of the Pirates regulars position players. Mercer owns a paltry .286 on-base percentage despite co-leading the team in intentional walks with Alvarez. Speaking of Alvarez – he has yet to hit a home run with a runner on base. Walker and Polanco haven’t looked locked in all year.

We could go on for quite awhile picking this offense apart, but the bigger question we should ask is this – how far can this Pittsburgh Pirates offense take this team?

We have all learned long ago that reason does not always win the day in baseball

We can start trying to answer that by comparing this club to previous years. Through the first 72 games of 2015, the Pirates have scored 286 runs for a 3.97 runs-per-game average, down slightly from 2014’s 294/4.08. In 2013 the Pirates were doing even worse offensively, posting 267 runs for a 3.71 average through the first 72 contests.

While those differences may seem marginal, they loom large in one-run games. The Pirates are 13-12 in one-run games this year – 31-29 in 2014. The 2013 version of the club posted a better record in this area at 29-23. Could a 1 run per game bump the rest of the way turn some of those nail-biters into more manageable games? Reason would dictate yes. But we have all learned long ago that reason does not always win the day in baseball, and thus the best thing for the team to do would be to put its best foot forward offensively in each game.

With today’s news that Clint Hurdle is putting Walker back into the two-hole and dropping Starling Marte down to fourth, it is clear that the everyday rock-solid lineup is still eluding the Pirates. We have previously seen the wonders that the protection of Andrew McCutchen can do for Marte, so perhaps the same will be in order for Walker.

Going into June, I – like many Pirates fans – wanted more pitching help in any potential deals Neal Huntington may see on the horizon. With the eye-opening struggles of the Pittsburgh Pirates offense recently, that thinking has changed. Perhaps the best addition would involve no subtraction. If Polanco, Mercer, Alvarez, and Walker can rebound even slightly, this offense may live up to the potential we saw before this campaign began. But if it does not – if those players remain mired in mediocrity offensively, that thinking should swing the other way towars grabbing a bat out on the trade market.

While a starting pitcher or bullpen arm may lead to 2-3 more wins the rest of the way, an everyday bat would likely have a bigger, more lasting impact.

Hey, it worked in 2013.

Next: Back Deck Report: Red(s) Dawn