Pittsburgh Pirates Week 1 in Review
Week one is over for the Pirates and with a record of 5-1, the team is looking to surprise many doubters. What were the highlights of week one and what should we be trying to forget?
Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. The good, the bad, and the ugly. This saying comes from the title of an old western film starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef back in 1966.
In honor of Francisco Cervelli, I am going to use this Italian phrase to break down each week of the Pirates season. The good and the bad will be sections will be self-explanatory, looking at both the good and the bad of the week. The ugly will simply be a section that covers all of the random notes of importance that don’t really belong in either the good or the bad. Let’s jump in!
It’s hard to start this section without highlighting the 6-1 record that the Pirates achieved over the seven day period from Friday, March 30th to Friday, April 6th. Yes, they did play three games against a very bad Detroit Tigers team, but six wins are six wins. I don’t think anyone expected the Pirates to sweep the Tigers with Ivan Nova, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl as the starting pitchers.
The offense as a whole finds its way into the good section this week. Here are some stats for the Pirates through a very young regular season. The Pirates have the 6th best batting average, 9th best with runners in scoring position, and 4th best (.348) with runners in scoring position and two outs. In addition, the Pirates have struck out less than every other team (not including the Royals who have only played 4 games) and have been walking at a high rate (tied for 7th best in the Majors). These statistics hold up to the eye test as well. The Pirates hit well as a team this week hit well in clutch situations and were patient at the plate.
Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell get a special mention this week for driving the top of the Pirates batting order, and the team as a whole, offensively. Polanco hit .280/.441/.680 with 11 RBIs and Bell hit .346/.438/.500 with 5 RBIs.
Both of these guys look extremely comfortable and confident at the plate through the first six games. If Polanco any Bell end the season with anything close to a 1.000 OPS, the Pirates are going to have a very exciting season offensively.
The last note in the good this week is the confidence of the young starting pitching. Williams, Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, and Steven Brault all had good to great first starts. It goes without saying that these young guys pitching well could be the make it or break it factor for the Pirates 2018 season.
Most experts predicted the 2018 Pirates to be a below average team defensively. This has held true through the first seven games. Even though the Pirates only committed two errors on paper, the eye test told a clear story of a weak defense that lost them their only game over the seven day stretch.
The corner outfield spots will be especially weak as far as arm strength and general fielding. Yes, Corey Dickerson did save game one with his throw to the plate, but honestly, it was a terrible throw and a good play on Cervelli’s end. Polanco still seems to bobble every ball that bounces around in right field and Starling Marte playing center field generally neutralizes his arm strength. Outside of Josh Harrison, the infield showed average defense if the ball was hit at them, but generally a lack of range.
Even though the bullpen did show some sparks of brilliance, they still find themselves in the bad for this first week of play due to poor outings from many members and overall inconsistency. Felipe Rivero and George Kontos looked solid and will provide a good anchor to the Bucs bullpen. Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow will be good multi-inning pitchers. But, everyone in the middle is a big question mark. In a year when most experts predict starting pitchers to pitch fewer innings, the 5th, 6th and 7th inning will be an important part for the Pirates bullpen to lock down.
The final bad is not really in the Pirates control but definitely did not make these first six games easy. The weather. Two rain-outs, a snowstorm, and multiple 30-degree temperature games bring into question why baseball is being played in Pittsburgh in early April. But hey, I’m not complaining, my couch was pretty comfy.
There were definitely some interesting and exciting moments during the first seven games for the Buccos. One of the best might have been Colin Moran’s first hit at PNC Park.
Opening day was a fun game. Five plus hours of high scoring baseball. The game had a lot of high notes for the Pirates, including Brault’s three innings of shutdown pitching. The game had a lot of low notes as well including a four-run blown save for Rivero and an injured umpire.
Next: Pirates Blast Reds, Improve To 6-1
Hope you guys enjoyed this weekly breakdown. If you like or don’t like this format, feel free to comment below! Let’s go Bucs!
The week ahead:
April 7th – Reds @ the Pirates 7:05
April 8th – Reds @ the Pirates 1:35
April 9th – Pirates @ the Cubs 2:20
April 11th – Pirates @ the Cubs 8:05
April 12th – Pirates @ the Cubs 2:20