The Pittsburgh Pirates Roster Management Has Been Infuriating

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The way the Pittsburgh Pirates have handled their roster in recent weeks has been absolutely infuriating for Pirate fans. And the frustration and anger spilled over yet again on Sunday.

Currently, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves in third place in the National League Central with a 52-51 record. The Pirates find are four games behind the Miami Marlins for the second National League Wild Card spot. So one would think a team that is attempting to make up ground would be fielding their best possible roster.

Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirates are not doing this. Not only do the Pirates not have their best possible 25-man roster, but they are also not fielding the best lineup that they can day in and day out with who is on the 25-man roster. And for fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, this is extremely frustrating.

We will start with the issues with the Pittsburgh Pirates 25-man roster. First and foremost, it is a joke that Josh Bell is not in the Major Leagues. At Triple-A this season Josh Bell is slashing .314/.403/.507/.910 with a .404 wOBA, 161 wRC+, .193 ISO, a 12.2 percent walk rate, and a strikeout rate of just 14.9 percent. Simply put, Josh Bell has been an elite hitter at Triple-A.

Josh Bell got a taste of life as a Pittsburgh Pirates in mid-July spending four games with the team. In those four games Bell went 2-for-2 with two walks, a grand slam, and three runs scored. While Bell’s defense at first base is still very much so a work in progress, and is not as good as John Jaso‘s, his bat more than makes up for it. It’s not like Josh Bell is Pedro Alvarez levels bad at first base, and he is also a far superior hitter than Alvarez ever was or ever will be. 

More from Rum Bunter

Josh Bell is not the only player from Triple-A Indianapolis who should be on the Pirate roster. Relief pitcher A.J. Schugel is in the same boat as Bell. The fact Schugel is at Triple-A right now is an incredibly frustrating one.

At this point I do not care who goes to make room for Josh Bell on the active roster, but someone needs to. Hell, calling Max Moroff and his .229 batting average and 94 strikeouts up over Bell on Sunday was dumb. Ship Moroff out for Bell, and then when a pitcher needs added to the roster for Thursday’s start figure out who goes to keep Bell around.

A.J. Schugel has come out of nowhere to have a fantastic rookie campaign for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season. In 49 innings pitched he is averaging 7.90 K/9, 2.39 BB/9, 0.79 HR/9, he has a 1.08 WHIP, and he has shown a plus change up. All of this has resulted in Schugel posting a 3.86 ERA, 3.30 FIP, and a 3.82 xFIP.

The reason Schugel is at Triple-A is because he has options. Well, so does Jared Hughes who has been awful. Hughes has a 4.72 FIP, 5.30 xFIP, a 51.7 percent ground ball rate, and is averaging just 4.33 K/9. All of these numbers are career worsts, while his 3.57 BB/9 and 0.76 HR/9 are the second worst totals of his career. Jared Hughes should be optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis for A.J. Schugel.

Next: Juan Nicasio (The Reliever) Is Really Good

The next problem comes with who the Pittsburgh Pirates have slated to start against the Atlanta Braves this week. Staff ace Gerrit Cole will take the ball on Tuesday night, so obviously there’s no issues there. However, there are big problems with Wednesday and Thursday’s starting pitchers.

Jeff Locke, who was recently demoted to the bullpen, will return to the Pirate rotation on Wednesday night. Then on Thursday Ryan Vogelsong, who has been on the disabled list since early June, will make the start. This will be just the third start of the season for Vogelsong.

Neither Locke nor Vogelsong have pitched well this season, and neither should be making a start this week. While Jeff Locke has done good work as a reliever, he has been horrible as a starting pitcher this season. As a starting pitcher this season Jeff Locke has a 4.92 FIP and a 4.96 xFIP, while averaging 5.05 K/9 and 1.24 HR/9. Ryan Vogelsong on the other hand has just been flat out bad. Prior to going on the disabled list Vogelsong had a 4.98 FIP, 4.78 xFIP, was averaging a career high 4.15 BB/9, and was allowing 1.25 HR/9.

Jul 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl (left) and manager Clint Hurdle (right) joke on the field before playing the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl (left) and manager Clint Hurdle (right) joke on the field before playing the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

I like Jeff Locke being in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen, but Ryan Vogelsong should not be on the roster and certainly should not be making starts. In place of these two the Pirates should be using some combination of Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams. Kuhl and Brault have both flashed good things in the Major Leagues this year, and Williams has been fantastic at Triple-A.

Starting these three is a no lose situation for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Odds are, they will not be worse than Locke and Vogelsong have been and in turn make the 2016 Pirates better and increase their odds of making the postseason. Furthermore, the Pirates will begin to learn what they have in these three pitchers and if they are viable rotation options for 2017 or not.

Last but certainly not least, there are the lineups the Pirates are fielding each night. Andrew McCutchen and Josh Harrison are both having miserable seasons, yet they both continue to play each night. Against right-handed pitching, Adam Frazier needs to be at second base and Matt Joyce in right field with Harrison and McCutchen on the bench. In fact, I would have Frazier be my lead off man against right-handed pitching.

The Pittsburgh Pirates offense is stuck in a slump right now, and a big reason why is because the Bucs are not fielding the best possible lineups they can. Against right-handed pitching Adam Frazier and Matt Joyce need to be in the lineup, and Josh Bell should be at first base and playing every single day. Enough of the Pirates not fielding their best possible lineups, it is time for that to change.

Anyone who reads my work regularly, or follows us on Twitter, knows that I am a huge fan of both Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. However, right now, both Neal and Clint need to be better. A.J. Schugel, Chad Kuhl, Josh Bell, and either Steven Brault or Trevor Williams needs to be on the roster. Furthermore, Adam Frazier and Matt Joyce need to be starting every single time the Pittsburgh Pirates face a right-handed pitcher.

When you combine all of this with the Pirates having been swept by a putrid Brewer team over the weekend, frustration and anger has boiled over for a lot of Pittsburgh Pirates fans. Even some of the most calm and level headed ones like yours truly. The Pirates need to start fielding their best 25, and now.