Pittsburgh Pirates Week in Review 5/25 – 5/31

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on May 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on May 30, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates faltered yet again this week going only 2-5 against divisional opponents. The club is 29-27 on the season. But, with two strong games on Wednesday and Thursday, things could be looking up.

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 the week that was!

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

Even though this was a rough week for the Pirates, there are still a few really positive signs. The biggest sign of good fortune for the Bucs are their two new M’s – we’ll call them M&M. Joe Musgrove and Austin Meadows have been stellar for the Pirates since they joined the club two weeks ago and it doesn’t look like either player will be leaving anytime soon.

With the steady Trevor Williams and many other Pirates’ starting pitchers faltering, Joe Musgrove’s two starts have been a huge help. Over his two starts, Musgrove has only given up one run over 14 innings. In both of his starts, Musgrove went a full seven innings – something that is very rare for Pirates’ pitchers this season. Musgrove also was extremely efficient during both of his starts, throwing strikes at a rate of 68%.

I personally have really enjoyed watching Musgrove’s two starts – he is a consistent and with multiple above average pitches, and is also extremely athletic. In Steven Brault fashion, Musgrove collected two hits over his first two starts, while also looking extremely comfortable fielding ground balls. Those who criticized the Pirates for not immediately sending Musgrove to the bullpen have been officially proven wrong, Musgrove is a starter and he is here to stay.

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Austin Meadows has been equally impressive since he was called up. So much so, that he has convinced Clint Hurdle and Neal Huntington to do something that the Pirates rarely do. In a very public statement, Hurdle said that the team would not be sending Austin Meadows back to AAA Indy after activating Startling Marte off of the disabled list. Meadows is a top prospect that really didn’t have an everyday starting spot to play for the Pirates, but was hitting the ball so well, that the Pirates have decided to go with a four-ma outfield rotation.

I am a huge fan of any decision that helps the club win. This decision helps the club win. Meadows has clearly shown he is ready to continue his development at the Major League level, and with Gregory Polanco continuing to struggle, Meadows is a great fit. I do believe that Polanco should continue to get more starts than the average bench player, but more often than not, the starting outfield for the Pirates should be Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, and Austin Meadows.

The bullpen will make the bad section this week, but it is important to point out two strong performers that may be moving into high leverage roles sooner rather than later.  These two pitchers are Tyler Glasnow and Kyle Crick.

Since May 8th, Glasnow has appeared in eight games and has only given up one run in total. These are not one inning appearances either – in six of these appearances Glasnow pitched two or more innings. The stretch has also seen Glasnow strikeout 16 batters while only walking three. With a dynamic arm, Hurdle will be forced to move Glasnow into high leverage situations if he continues to pitch this well.

Kyle Crick has done equally well, making nine appearances since May 11th while only giving up one earned run. Crick actually has decent velocity, and with a 1.93 ERA on the season, the Pirates may have found their new set-up man.

The Bad

So the good news is that no one in the Pirates’ bullpen is really bad. The bad news is it is really difficult to figure out which young pitchers are really good. This came back to haunt the Pirates this past week as the bullpen imploded and was directly responsible for the losses on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. The bullpen gave up 18 runs during those three games…not good.

Side note: I wrote the majority of this article before Vasquez gave up five runs without recording an out. Yes. he is a problem now officially. I will make sure to address the topic in next week’s edition.

In particular, Michael Feliz and Edgar Santana have both been struggling. Feliz and Santana were the two main candidates to pitch in the 8th inning after George Kontos’s exit, but it is safe to say that neither hhaslocked down the role. Growing pains are expected for young pitchers, but let’s hope that the growing happens fast and that the pain is brief – the Pirates need both of these guys to perform well if they hope to compete this season.

The RBI’s are falling off for the batters in the middle of the Pirates’ lineup.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Pirates having some insane length to their lineup. However, some of the run-producers are falling off. Unsurprisingly, Gregory Polanco has struggled, producing only five RBI’s since I wrote that article 21 days ago (two of which came in last night’s game, so the five is inflated a bit). Colin Moran has also slowed down considerably, only driving in four runs over that stretch. Starling Marte is still hitting well, but that doesn’t mean that the Pirates didn’t miss his run production when he took a stint to the DL. I am 100% confident that this is going to be the story for the Pirates in 2018 – will the middle of the lineup continue to produce – because if they do, the Pirates will win.

Overall, I was rather disappointed with how the Pirates handled the whole Anthony Rizzo and Elias Diaz situation.

A brief summary for those who need to be caught up. On a bases-loaded ground ball, the Pirates’ defense looked to turn two by going home and then to first base. After making the out at home, Diaz stepped forward to throw to first but was slid into by Rizzo (running from third to home), causing Diaz to throw the ball into right field. The errant throw scored an additional two runs for the Cubs. Hurdle was ejected from the game after a replay challenge decided the slide was fair. Hours later, Joe Madden, skipper of the Cubs, criticized the Pirates’ players AND the Pirates’ fans for being ignorant. Hours later, the MLB released an official statement saying that the call on the field was wrong and that the slide was illegal (which was honestly very obvious).

I actually give a lot of props to the MLB for admitting that they messed up. I give zero to the Pirates. The Pirates needed to defend their team morale, the Pirates’ fans, and their image as a contender by retaliating against the Cubs. I am not saying that they had to hit Rizzo with a pitch, though that is an option, but they needed to show some passion when they played the Cubs the following day. Instead, the team lost a non-competitive game while giving up eight runs. There is a good chance that this is why David Freese was so upset in the Pirates’ dugout.

The Ugly

Bob Nutting may actually be paying attention to the attendance at PNC Park this season because it has been embarrassingly low. When the Cubs were in town, it honestly sounded like there were more Cubs fans in attendance than Pirates fans. Even though I would love to see more people attend the games, I think it is completely fair to express frustration with the lack of off-season spending.

Jung Ho Kang just received his first minor league assignment, and will play for the Pirates’ high A affiliate. There is not too much else to say here, but check in with the Bradenton Marauders every once and a while to see how he is doing. Kang could be a key piece on the 25-man roster for the Pirates in the second half of the season.

Staying in the minors, the AAA Indianapolis Indians have a few players that are hitting very well. Jose Osuna is of course hitting well enough to be in the Majors. He has a BA of .349 and an OPS of 1.007. Wyatt Mathisen, Christopher Bostick, and Jacob Stallings are also hitting the cover off of the ball. Perhaps the most interesting story for the Pirates though is Kevin Kramer, one of the team’s top prospects. Utility man Kramer is hitting .309 and has only stuck out 22 times in 181 at-bats. Kramer could be a solid addition to the club and could play his way into a bench role even before the rosters expand.

That’s all for this week guys! Hope you enjoyed, and as always, feel free to leave comments and suggestions below. Lets go Bucs!

The Pittsburgh Pirates week ahead:

June 1st – Pirates @ the Cardinals 8:15

June 2nd – Pirates @ the Cardinals 2:15

June 3rd – Pirates @ the Cardinals 2:15

June 5th – Dodgers @ the Pirates 7:05

June 6th – Dodgers @ the Pirates 7:05

June 7th – Dodgers @ the Pirates 12:35