Hey Pittsburgh Pirates, You’re In A Playoff Race

Aug 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 2, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle (13) in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports /

Even though the team is not necessarily operating like it, the Pittsburgh Pirates are squarely in the hunt for a National League Wild Card spot. The Pittsburgh Pirates are just three games out of the second National League Wild Card spot, but the general manager and manager are not operating that way.

The Pittsburgh Pirates currently own a 53-52 record. This record has them three games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League’s second, and final, Wild Card spot. Making up a three game deficit over the course of 57 games is not asking a lot.

More importantly, the Pittsburgh Pirates are just two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the loss column. Furthermore, the Pirates have games in had on each of the three teams in front of them. While the Pirates have 57 games remaining, the Cardinals and Mets have 55 while the Marlins have just 54 games remaining.

I am a huge fan of both Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle. However, I am starting to feel like a bit of a broken record in terms of being critical of them. This is the third article in the past few weeks I have written that is critical of their actions.

In recent weeks, it has been mind boggling what has been going on with the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. The Bucs are not fielding their best 25-man roster, they’re not fielding the best lineup they can with the 25 men who are on the roster, and their choices for call ups has been, to say the least, puzzling.

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Some of the in game decisions of Clint Hurdle have been very confusing as well. Last night for example Jeff Locke never even should have started for the Pirates, let alone last as long as he did in the game. The Pirates, due to Locke’s inefficient pitching, were very lucky to escape the fourth inning with a 4-3 lead. However, Hurdle sent Locke back to the mound for the fifth inning and everyone could see what was coming. Anyone who had watched that game could see Locke was going to implode in the fifth, and that is exactly what happened. The Braves scored two runs to take a 5-4 lead they would not relinquish.

What the Pittsburgh Pirates have been doing with their roster has been even more confusing. Why Jared Hughes (4.69 FIP, 5.27 xFIP, 4.25 K/9) is in the bullpen over A.J. Schugel (3.30 FIP, 3.83 xFIP, 7.90 K/9), especially when they both have options remaining, is beyond my comprehension. I also have no idea what on earth Max Moroff is doing on the 25-man roster. At Triple-A this season Moroff is hitting .229 with 94 strikeouts (23.7 percent strikeout rate) in 397 plate appearances. Not surprisingly, he is 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the Major Leagues.

Also, there is ZERO reason for Josh Bell to still be at Triple-A. John Jaso has been a train wreck the past two months. Since June first Jaso is slashing .194/.289/.269/.568 with a .257 wOBA and a wRC+ of 59. All Josh Bell does at Triple-A is continue to mash, yet he remains at Triple-A while Jaso is on the roster and, worst of all, still batting lead off!

Speaking of that lead off spot, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to shake things up there as well. Leaving Jordy Mercer there against left-handed pitching is just fine. After all, Mercer does have a .402 on-base percentage, .379 wOBA, and a 141 wRC+ against left-handed pitching this season. But against right-handed pitching, it needs to be Adam Frazier with him playing second base over Josh Harrison.

One thing that has been good to see is Andrew McCutchen being benched for this series against the Atlanta Braves. Even if it is only for one series, it was long overdue and it is giving Matt Joyce the playing time he has earned and deserves. Hopefully, if this benching does not get McCutchen going, we see more of him on the bench moving forward.

Finally, there is the disaster that is the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation. Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong starting games during a playoff race, really? Really? Really? That is inexcusable and can not happen. Especially when you have better options at Triple-A in Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams. Hell, both Kuhl and Brault have pitched in the Majors this year and have been much better than Locke and Vogelsong as Major League pitchers this season.

Oh, and do not even get me started on Ivan Nova getting the ball for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday. Nova sucks, the Pirates never should have traded for him, and him taking starts away from the young guys is disgraceful.

Next: Jeff Locke Must Go

The Pittsburgh Pirates need to start operating like a team that is contending for a playoff spot. That means having your best 25 players on your 25-man roster, as well as fielding your best possible lineup each day. In recent weeks the Pirates have not done either, and that needs to change immediately.

Hopefully, last night was Jeff Locke’s final start as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Regardless of result, tonight needs to be Ryan Vogelsong’s last as well. The Pittsburgh Pirates have younger, better options and it is time to see them on a full-time basis.

Right now, I am disgruntled, angry, and frustrated over the construction of the Pittsburgh Pirates roster. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or reads my work knows it take a lot for me to get frustrated over sports, well, in recent weeks, the Pittsburgh Pirates have made me do that. Go Bucs!