Pittsburgh Pirates in Review 8/10 – 8/15

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 11: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 11, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 11: Trevor Williams #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 11, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates split a four game series with the Giants and then drop two games against the Twins. It was not a week to remember.

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

Trevor Williams takes front and center in the good section this week. In Trevor’s last five starts, he has given up a total of two earned runs. Even though Jameson Taillion has pitched well recently, Williams has felt like the staff ace and stopper for the better part of two months.

Williams will have perhaps his most important start of the season this week against the Cubs, hopefully he can continue to pitch lights-out and shut down the Cub’s hot offense.

Elias Diaz should win player of the year for the Pirates in 2018. That’s not an award by the way, but if it was, my vote would be for Diaz.

Diaz wasn’t supposed to start 51 out of the Pirates first 121 games. But he did. Diaz wasn’t supposed to hit for power this year. But he has. Diaz has hit a home run every 23 at-bats on average this season. In fact, Diaz wasn’t even supposed to hit for average this year. But has posted a .299 batting average that continues to rise during the second half of the season.

Many players on the Pirates this year have failed to live up to their expectations (think Josh Bell, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Jameson Taillon, etc.). Elias Diaz has lived up to, and has far exceeded any expectations that were laid out for him this season. I mean, just look at this swing from the game against the Twins on Wednesday.

Smooth and easy, right? If Diaz finishes the year strong, the Pirates are going to have an interesting decision this off-season with Francisco Cervelli still under team control.

Even though the Pirates are on the verge of being eliminated from the playoff race, there is some good to be found in their upcoming schedule. The Pirates will truly get to control their own destiny since they play the Cubs, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, and Braves (in that order) in consecutive upcoming series. All of these teams are currently ahead of the Pirates in either the NL Central, or the Wild Card race.

The Bad

Did you know that the Pirates are in the midst of a playoff race?

Apparently Neal Huntington and Clint Hurdle do not. Last Friday the Pirates started Clay Holmes against the Giants which can only be described as a predictable disaster.

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Instead of continuing to beat down the Giants and continuing to to make-up ground in the playoff race, the Pirates decided to push back their starters and start a pitcher who has shown to be far from ready for the Big League spotlight. The Pirates lost Friday’s game 13-10.

Yes. The Pirates scored 10 runs and lost.

Instead of starting Trevor Williams who, as mentioned above, is pitching lights out, the Pirates went with a pitcher who gave up 7 runs in 2.2 innings. All because the Pirates were worried that their starters would have poor starts following a series in the high altitude of Colorado.

Once again, Huntington and Hurdle paired up to lose another game for the Pirates. This is something that has happened far too often this season.

In case you were wondering, the Sports Daily did a pretty in depth study on the “extra day of rest – Coors field” effect and found it to be bogus.

And of course, instead of the front office admitting that they messed up, they doubled-down on their stance. To quote sportswriter Paul Zeise, this only made “the Pirates’ front office look foolish yet again”. Instead of experimenting with “biometric data”,  “cutting-edge analytical formulas”, and “anecdotal evidence” (to quote Pirates’ assistant GM Kevan Graves), let’s try using some good old common sense.

It’s a playoff race. Start your best players everyday.

Sadly, the Pirates’ didn’t help themselves when they lost both games against the Twins on Tuesday and Wednesday. These two losses really leave a sour taste.

Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer are supposedly the two best pitchers in your starting rotation, and both pick up loses against a team that is well below .500.

It is way too early to judge the trade for Chris Archer, I repeat, way too early. But, Archer’s first three starts have been really disappointing. Archer has spread 9 earned runs across his first three starts. This would not be terrible if Archer had also pitched at least seven innings in all of those games, but he hasn’t. Archer has pitched 4.2, 5.0, and 5.0 innings in his first three starts. Archer is a great person and a player with incredible potential, let’s hope that his starts improve in the near future.

However, the starters do not deserve all of the blame for the sub-par week. The bread and butter of the Pirates’ lineup, their three outfielders, sorely under performed.

While hitting in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd spots in the lineup, the outfielders went 5-26 with only two RBIs across both of the games against the Twins. This was made even worse by the fact that a good portion of these at bats were with runners in scoring position. Starling Marte, Corey Dickerson, and Gregory Polanco are all cold right now at the plate – that needs to change immediately or the Pirates’ season is over. The Pirates cannot afford to lose any series over this next stretch, and they won’t be able to win any of the series if the outfielders continue to slump.

The Ugly

The player to be named in the Chris Archer trade has been announced. Shane Baz, the Pirates’ number four prospect and first round pick from last year is going to the Tampa Bay Rays. Even though this is probably the worst case scenario as far as this news goes for Pirates’ fans, I am still okay with the trade. Five years down the road, I am sure the Rays will be named the “winners” of the trade, but if Archer pans out and is a 3.50 ERA pitcher for the Pirates over the next three years, I would call the Pirates “winners” as well.

Up to this point under Neal Huntington, the Pirates have been unable to develop high school arms like Shane Baz. The only success that comes to mind is Jameson Taillon, but the list of failures is considerably longer. This move solidifies the notion that Huntington sees a window of opportunity over the next three years and is looking to capitalize on that window over betting on long-term prospects.

Speaking of arms that didn’t quite pan out under the Pirates, Tyler Glasnow continues to pitch well for the Rays. Stephen Nesbitt recently interviewed Glasnow and was able to extract some really interesting insights on Glasnow’s time in Pittsburgh. I highly recommend reading the piece. It is rare when professional athletes are willing to answer tough and in-depth questions during an interview – Glasnow does both.

That’s all for this week! Let’s go Bucs!

The Pittsburgh Pirates week ahead:

August 16th – Cubs @ the Pirates 7:05

August 17th – Cubs @ the Pirates 7:05

August 18th – Cubs @ the Pirates 7:05

August 19th – Cubs @ the Pirates 1:35

August 20th – Braves @ the Pirates 7:05

August 21st – Braves @ the Pirates 7:05

August 22nd – Braves @ the Pirates 7:05