The Pittsburgh Pirates Are Rolling Right Now
Dating back to June 24th, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. And after a 5-1 West Coast road trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates are absolutely rolling right now.
After going 5-18 through the first 23 games in the month of June, things looked bleak for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team found themselves with an overall record of 34-39 and the season seemed to be slipping away. However, starting with a four game series that began with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 24th the Pittsburgh Pirates have been on an absolute roll.
When all hope seemed lost, the Pirates took three of four from the Dodgers at PNC Park. Then, the Bucs went on the road to Seattle and Oakland and went 4-1. The Pittsburgh Pirates then won a four game series at Bush Stadium in St. Louis, before taking two of three from the Cubs at home before the All-Star Break.
This 12-4 stretch in their final 16 games before the All-Star Break signaled a turn around for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Ever since this stretch they have been one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. And as a result, the Pirates seem primed to make yet another postseason run.
In their last 45 games, which dates back to June 24th, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 28-17. That is a .622 winning percentage, which is a 101 win pace. The Pirates’ 28 wins since June 24th are the second most in all of Major League Baseball behind just the Toronto Blue Jays who have won 29 games in that time frame.
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The single biggest reason for the turnaround of the Pittsburgh Pirates has been improved pitching. A Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen anchored by Mark Melancon (pre-trade), Felipe Rivero (post-trade), Tony Watson, Neftali Feliz, and Juan Nicasio has been outstanding during this stretch. Also, Jeff Locke has a 0.00 ERA since being moved to the bullpen in mid-July.
The Pirate rotation has improved, too. Gerrit Cole is back from the disabled list, Jameson Taillon is a budding ace, Chad Kuhl has pitched like a strong number three starter, and Ryan Vogelsong has been a god send since coming off the disabled. Also, removing Jeff Locke, Jon Niese, and Francisco Liriano from the Pirate rotation has helped as well.
After the August 1st non-waiver trading deadline Pittsburgh Pirates’s fans were, as usual, up in arms. This is because the Pirates traded away Francisco Liriano, who had been arguably the worst starting pitcher in the National League in 2016. A lot of the outrage was fueled by some of the not-so-bright folks in the Pittsburgh sports media that never miss the chance to take a pot shot at the Pirates.
Since the trade deadline, however, the Pirates’ rotation has been one of the best in the National League. Since being traded to Toronto Francisco Liriano has a 5.11 FIP and a 4.60 xFIP in 11 2/3 innings pitched. This is despite some people acting like the Pirates trading Liriano meant they would never win again.
Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Pirates now have Ryan Vogelsong in their starting rotation. In his three starts since the August 1st trade deadline Ryan Vogelsong has pitched 17 2/3 innings. In those 17 2/3 innings Vogelsong has a 2.55 ERA and a 4.10 FIP, a vast improvement over Liriano.
Also, at the trade deadline the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired starting pitcher Ivan Nova and reliever Antonio Bastardo. Well, the Pirates are 3-0 when Nova starts for them. As for Bastardo, he has allowed just two runs in six innings pitched since returning to the Pirates. All three of these trades have worked out well.
During this stretch, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense has also been better. The Pirates are averaging 4.6 runs per game over the course of their last 45 games, and a big reason for this is the re-emergence of three players. These three players are Francisco Cervelli, Jung Ho Kang, and Andrew McCutchen.
Catcher Francisco Cervelli came off the disabled list on July 19th. Since then Cervelli owns a .346/.431/.423/.854 slash line, .373 wOBA, and a 136 wRC+. Since July 24th Jung Ho Kang his batting just .250. However, he has a .368 on-base percentage, .521 slugging percentage, .380 wOBA, and a 141 wRC+ during this time frame. Kang also has a very strong 14.0 walk percentage since July 24th.
Most importantly, there is Andrew McCuchen. Clint Hurdle benched him for the entirety of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ series with the Atlanta Braves the first week of August. Since then McCutchen is slashing .297/.469/.432/901 with a .403 wOBA, 157 wRC+, and a 24.5 walk percentage. And all of that was before McCutchen went 2-for-4 with a two-run home run against the Giants on Wednesday.
It was said for months that getting Andrew McCutchen back on track would be a huge boost for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Well, it appears that is happening. It is not a coincidence that the Pirates are red hot with McCutchen hitting well, either.
The past two months the Pittsburgh Pirates have been on an absolute roll. And right now, they’re playing as well as any team in Major League Baseball. The Pirates’ hot streak has come at a great time as it has pole-vaulted them back into the thick of the National League postseason race.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently just three games behind the San Francisco Giants for the top Wild Card spot, and just one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second. The teams closest to the Pirates behind them are the Miami Marlins and New York Mets. The Marlins are one game behind the Pirates, and the Mets are three back.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to play they way they have the past two months, then I believe we will be experiencing a fourth consecutive ‘Buctober’ this fall. So, Pirates, please, keep playing well. Because playoff baseball is the best.