The Pittsburgh Pirates are 14-18 with 27 errors this season that have caused 21unearned runs. To avoid a rebuilding season, the Pirates need to start finding consistency both in the field and at the plate.
The Pittsburgh Pirates lost another sloppy game on Sunday, this time the loss cost them a series sweep against the Brew-Crew out of Milwaukee. The Pirates are still playing extremely poor defense and are hitting a measly .236 as a team.
Thankfully, the window of opportunity is far from being closed for the Pirates. At the moment, the NL Central is a complete mess and the Pirates can still easily win the division. On top of this, the starting pitching has been strong and rumor has it that both David Freese and Adam Frazier will be returning to the line-up shortly.
However, the Pirates must find consistency both in the field and at the plate to take advantage of the weak NL Central and players returning from injury. Here are three changes that the Pirates can make today that can help the Pirates do just that.
#1 – Fix Right Field…Permanently
Right field has been a mess for the Pirates this season. Yes, this has been mostly due to Starling Marte and his PED suspension, but that is something that the Pirates cannot control. So far, the Pirates have pretty much thrown the kitchen sink out in right field to attempt to solve the problem. Guess what, the kitchen sink is not a solution and is unacceptable for a professional baseball team.
Yesterday, one of the Pirates broadcasters on the TV side (I cannot remember which one off-hand) made a comment close to this after John Jaso made another horrendous error in right field, “You can’t get upset with Jaso, he is doing his best out there and is not a natural right fielder”.
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This is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard. Get someone who plays the position then. Again, you’re a professional baseball team.
If a person followed this reasoning the Pirates could throw me out in right field today, and when I make three or four errors, they would say, “hey it’s okay, he’s not a natural right fielder”. Pirates fans pay hard-earned money every single day to support this team. Playing John Jaso in right field is not acceptable.
Believe it or not, the Pirates have an easy solution for their current problem in right field. In fact, they have a past top three, Pirates farm-system right field prospect on their major league roster, Josh Bell. Josh Bell was a successful right fielder throughout the majority of his minor league career. Instead of having slightly below average defense at first base everyday, the Pirates need to move Bell to right field until Starling Marte returns and start Jaso or Freese (when he is healthy) at first base.
This solution is almost too good to be true. It makes too much sense. I feel like the Pirates are worried that Josh Bell will forget everything he learned at first base if they move him to right field for 60 games. I think that Josh Bell is smart enough to remember the difference between first base and right field.
#2 – Establish a Consistent Gameplan for the Bench
Like I stated in an article earlier this year, Phil Gosselin needs to be in AAA Indianapolis. He is currently batting a .138 and has two recorded fielding errors. I stress recorded because Gosselin has easily committed three or four unrecorded errors this season in extremely limited play. As of now Gosselin is a minus-minus defender and a minus-minus hitter. There are two players on the Pirates bench alone that do what Gosselin does better. There is no upside to keeping him on the roster.
(Update: Phil Gosselin is gone, yay!)
When Frazier and Freese return, the Pirates bench needs to include Gift Ngoepe, Chris Stewart, Jose Osuna, and Alen Hanson. This would mean that the Pirates send Elias Diaz and Phil Gosselin back down to AAA and if the club chooses to carry only four bench players, DFA’ing John Jaso.
This bench will leaves the Pirates with two solid middle infield backups that can be defensive substitutions. Jose Osuna is traditionally a first baseman (though you would never know with the “kitchen sink” situation in right field currently) and can be the Pirates backup first baseman and last-option outfielder. I would suggest carrying five bench players until Freese and Frazier return, but once they return something has to be done with Jaso. John Jaso is a good defensive first baseman…but I don’t know if the team can justify keeping him on the roster if that is the only positive aspect he is bringing to the club.
#3 – Fix the Lineup Now….No Like Seriously, Fix it Today
Even though I praised the Pirates opening day lineup earlier this year, it is just not working. Clint Hurdle needs to adjust his lineup before it is too late. Here is my proposed lineup (assuming the return of Frazier and Freese):
- Josh Harrison – 3B
- Adam Frazier – 2B
- Josh Bell – RF
- David Freese – 1B
- Gregory Polanco – LF
- Andrew McCutchen – CF
- Francisco Cervelli – C
- Jordy Mercer – SS
Some notes on what I have laid out above. Both Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier have been hitting great this season. Keeping them one and two in the lineup allows the Pirates to have decent OBP and speed at the top of their lineup. I prefer J-Hay in the one spot just because he is a bit more aggressive on the bases and will have more opportunities to steal if no one is in front of him.
The three and four spots in the Pirates lineup have been the biggest problem spots for the team so far this year. Andrew McCutchen is hitting .218 and is showing no signs of improving on that number anytime soon. Hurdle needs to move Cutch back in the lineup. Period.
There is really nothing else to be said about that point. Josh Bell is currently the Pirates best hitter. Even though he is only batting .258 on the season, Bell’s bat is noticeably becoming hot and he is consistency hitting the ball hard and well. Unlike many of the other Pirates players, I get excited when Bell comes to the plate. I like him the two spot, I love him in the three.
Gregory Polanco is hitting .250, has zero home-runs and has only 9 RBI’s as the Pirates cleanup hitter this season. A professional baseball team cannot be successful if they have a clean-up hitter that does not “clean-up”. I don’t believe that David Freese will be an above-average four-spot batter. But I do believe he will give the Pirates consistent production with decent power, which is the name of the game when you are in the four-spot.
In conclusion, there is a lot going wrong for the Buccos so far this season, but the year is far from lost. Every major league team has to overcome challenges throughout baseball’s long season. To quote Kelly Clarkson, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Right now the Pirates need to focus on not killing off their season too early, and they can do this through striving for consistency. The Pirates can come out of this part of their season as a stronger team and make a playoff run.
Let’s Go Bucs.
***All statistics courtesy of mlb.com