Week two is coming to a close for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the team has a record of 9-3. The Bucs continued their strong start to the season, but bullpen issues still plague the team.
Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. The good, the bad, and the ugly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s the theme of this series and it’s about time to keep the ball rolling! The good and the bad 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 doesn’t really belong in either the good or the bad.
Two quick housekeeping notes before we jump into this week’s action. First, if you want to catch up with what the Pirates did during week one, check out the first edition of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Second, this series will officially come out every Friday morning/afternoon and will cover the games from the previous Friday through the following Thursday. Let’s jump in!
The Pittsburgh Pirates have played five games since the last edition of this post and sported a record of 3-2 over that span. The team won a four-game series against the Cincinnati Reds and a three-game series against the NL Central favorites, the Chicago Cubs. Winning a series against the Cubs in Wrigley was a major step forward for Clint Hurdle’s club. Up to this point, an argument could be made that the Pirates had not played any playoff caliber teams – that argument no longer holds water. This team is turning into more and more of a legitimate contender every day.
Video courtesy of mlb.com
Yeah, this guy is a beast. He pitched a one-hit, complete game shutout during his second start of the season. On top of that, he had an RBI single to score the Pirates first run of the game. The Pittsburgh Pirates need Jameson to be an ace this year if they want to try and make it to the post-season, and so far, Jameson is giving the team nothing less.
Gregory Polanco. There is an argument to be made that the first 12 games of the 2018 season are better than the entirety of Polanco’s 2017 season. Okay, maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but seriously, this guy is on fire. 5 home runs, 15 RBIs, and a 1.099 OPS are eye-popping statistics through 12 games. By the way, while hitting out of the two-spot, Polanco leads the entire league in RBIs, arguably the most important statistic for any batter. Right now Polanco looks like the best player in the league, second only to Bryce Harper (1,289 OPS and 6 home runs), who is going to sign the biggest contract in professional sports history this upcoming off-season.
A main driver of the Pittsburgh Pirates success so far this season is their ability to hit with runners in scoring position. Without a doubt, this is one of the hardest things to do in baseball and is a key component to any team that wants to compete. Right now the club is batting .327 with runners in scoring position, good for second best in the entire League. On top of that, the team is batting .313 with runners in scoring position and with two outs. The Pirates have a no-joke offense this year, but even if the team’s overall average comes back to earth as the year progresses, the club will continue to win if they keep getting timely hits.
Honorable mentions for this week include Trevor Williams, who wrapped up the series against the Cubs by pitching his second gem of the season. Newcomers Colin Moran and Corey Dickerson, who are both on an absolute tear to start the season. And Josh Bell, who is continuing to develop into the player we all hoped and dreamed that he would develop into.
Well. We all know what is showing up this section, the bullpen. Both losses that the Pirates suffered over this last week can be laid at the feet of the bullpen. It’s rough back there right now. Let me throw out a few statistics. The Pirates currently have eight relievers on the roster (let’s not count Steven Brault). Right now the collective ERA of the bunch is…….7.70, according to my back-of-the-napkin calculations. On top of this, the bullpen has given up 32 of the team’s 58 runs (36%) so far this season, even though the bullpen has only pitched 40.4 of the team’s 111 innings (55%).
Relievers Dovydas Neverauskas and Josh Smoker are the two biggest suspects with ERA’s of 11.57 and 9.00, respectively. Clint Hurdle and Ray Searage have a clear number one priority entering this next week – stabilize the bullpen. The season is too young to expect starters to go deep into games. Solving the middle relief problem for the Bucco’s is a must and will be key if the team wants to fully capitalize on the offense’s hot start.
Felipe Rivero is no more. Just kidding, kind of. He just changed his name to Felipe Vazquez to match the last name of his sister Prescilla. In fact, it’s already on his jersey. In my opinion, this is pretty cool. Prescilla Vazquez played a large role in Felipe’s contract extension this past off-season and is clearly very close to Felipe.
Pitcher Steven Brault has had 37 Major League at-bats over the last three seasons. Guess how many times he has struck out? Zero. This is better than any other current Big League pitcher and is also quite historic according to the Pirates broadcasters during Brault’s last start.
Clint Hurdle spoke publicly about Javier Baez and his actions after he flipped his bat 15 feet in the air following a pop up during Wednesday’s game. The incident has actually turned into a decently big story and many Cub’s teammates and Baez himself have fired back. At the end of the day, this will wash over and will be forgotten, but I do think that there is an interesting takeaway. The past three games have shown the Cub’s that their path to the NL Central’s title just got a little bit harder. No one would make a big deal about any of this if that wasn’t the case and the Pirates instead started the season 3-9. The Pirate’s are going to be in the mix. Both the Pirates and the Cubs know this, which could lead to a fun little rivalry throughout the season.
Well, that’s all for this week! Hope you guys enjoyed! If you like or don’t like this format, feel free to comment below and keep your eyes open for next weeks edition. Let’s go Bucs!
The Pittsburgh Pirates week ahead:
April 13th – Pirates @ the Marlins 7:10
April 14th – Pirates @ the Marlins 7:10
April 15th – Pirates @ the Marlins 1:10
April 16th – Rockies @ the Pirates 7:05
April 17th – Rockies @ the Pirates 7:05
April 18th – Rockies @ the Pirates 12:35