Pittsburgh Pirates Week in Review 4/20 – 4/26


Week 4 has come to a close for the Pirates and the team’s record is 14-11. It was a rough week for the Bucs as they weathered a five-game losing streak, but finished with two strong wins over the Detroit Tigers.

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo. The good, the bad, and the ugly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s the theme of this series – shout out to the Italian man himself,  Francisco Cervelli, for the inspiration. Let’s jump into week four!

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 other random notes of importance from the week.

The Good

We are still kicking this week off with the good, even though the Pirates would hardly define week four as a “good” week. There were still some outstanding performers for the Bucs, including Corey Dickerson. The Pirates needed a feel-good moment against the Tigers on Thursday to win the series after being swept by the Phillies just three days earlier. Dickerson provided that feel-good moment.

I am starting to like this guy more and more as the year continues. He plays the game hard, swings aggressively at the plate, and plays each ball hit at him in left field like it is a game-deciding situation (which is far from what can be said about his teammate on the other side of the outfield).

He also went 7-22 this past week when every other Pirate struggled at the plate. With a season line of .314/.348/.848, Dickerson is outperforming Andrew McCutchen this year by a large margin (.205/.314/.666). Last year, Dickerson had similar statistics and provided the Tampa Bay Rays with 2.7 WaR (Wins Abov Replacement), which is pretty solid. If the Pirates can get that from Dickerson this season, Dickerson immediately becomes the biggest steal of the off-season. Not just for Pirates, I’m talking about the biggest steal across the entire MLB.

The bullpen receded a little bit this week, but does still look better than the first two weeks of the season. A lot of this has to do with Kyle Crick. Crick has been on the Pirates roster for close to two weeks now and will not be leaving it anytime soon. Over six appearances, Crick has only given up one run, while owning an ERA of 1.80. He has also only walked one batter while striking out eight. The bullpen desperately needed another arm to step up, and Crick seems to be the guy that is answering the call. If he continues to pitch this well, I expect him to challenge George Kontos for opportunities to pitch in higher leverage situations.

I am going to give the MVP this week to Ivan Nova. Nova’s last two starts (both during this past week in review) have been stellar, giving up only one run through 14 innings. In classic Nova fashion, he did not walk a single batter over that span. After Thursday’s start, Nova owns a 3.32 ERA, which I am sure the Pirates are extremely pleased with. It is still early in the season, but Nova looks like he is going to consistently eat innings and keep the Pirates competitive in almost all of the games he starts.

The Bad

It’s hard to ignore the sweep by the Phillies. Or the five-game losing streak. Or the bats that just disappeared completely after averaging over six runs a game. This upcoming week will be very telling for the Pirates – how will the team respond? Will they recover and beat the division rival Cardinals – or will they continue to falter and prove all of the preseason doubters correct? I for one am still very excited about this team. The starting pitching and the newcomers on the offensive side continue to surprise and impress.

I hope that when this season ends, we will look back and say that the worst series for the Pirates over the course of the season was this recent one against the Phillies. The team went 23-134 at the plate for a batting average of .170. On top of that, the Pirates only scored five runs over the four-game span – less than their per game average of six plus up to that point. There isn’t much more to be said about the series as a whole, but a large part of the Pirates offensive woes were due to the below two issues.

Gregory Polanco continues to struggle in the two-spot of the order. Since the last edition of this article, Polanco has collected only five hits, which is better than his 1-23 the previous week. But, he is still only hitting a dreadful .205 on the season. This is close to 100 points below what a MLB two-spot hitter should be batting. It will be interesting to see if Clint Hurdle keeps Polanco in the same spot moving forward and if Jose Osuna stays on the roster, whether or not he will cut into Polanco’s time in right field.

The leadoff position is the second woe of the Buc’s offensive struggles. Adam Frazier was the consensus leadoff option after Josh Harrison went down with an injury, but is only hitting .233 on the year and only went 3-15 this past week while hitting lead-off. Sean Rodriguez is a fantastic MLB player and person, but he is not a leadoff hitter either. I’m not sure who will leadoff for the Pirates going forward, but this is one area that Hurdle needs to address sooner rather than later.

The Ugly

Wait. What? Was that video placement a mistake?  Nope.

Jung Ho Kang is returning to the Pittsburgh Pirates after more than an entire year’s absence. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, I certainly did not.

The Pirates really don’t have a spot for Kang at the moment, unless he secretly knows how to play second base (which he may), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I am sure that Kang will have to play at least two weeks in Triple-A Indy before he gets called up to the Pirates, even if he shows immediate signs of returning to his previous self. Either way, this really can only be a good thing for the Pirates – adding more depth to their roster while also upgrading their power potential as a team.

For the first time in this series we will take a trip out to Indianapolis Indians, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate, and take a look at Nick Kingham. Kingham has always been a highly praised pitching prospect by the Pirates, but sort of disappeared after having Tommy John surgery two seasons ago and an ankle injury last year.

So far, Kingham owns an ERA of 1.59 over four starts for Triple-A Indy. He has only given up four runs and has struck out 27 batters over that span. The Pirates need a spot-starter on Sunday against the Cardinals, and it is possible that Kingham will make his MLB debut.

No one at the moment is pitching poorly for the Pirates in their starting rotation, and I believe Joe Musgrove and Tyler Glasnow are still the first two in line for starting rotation positions. So at the moment, Kingham does not have long-term potential for the Big League club, but he is certainly a player I will be keeping my eyes on.

Next: Jung Ho Kang Acquires New Work Visa

That’s all for this week! Feel free to comment below if you have any suggestions of thoughts on the good, the bad, and the ugly – I am always looking for feedback!

The Pittsburgh Pirates week ahead:

April 27th – Cardinals @ the Pirates7:05

April 28th – Cardinals @ the Pirates 7:05

April 29th – Cardinals @ the Pirates 1:35

April 30th – Pirates @ the Nationals 7:05

April 31st – Pirates @ the Nationals 7:05

May 1st – Pirates @ the Nationals 7:05

May 2nd – Pirates @ the Nationals 1:05