2019 Has Been The Season From Hell For The Pittsburgh Pirates
Just about everything that could go wrong for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 has gone wrong
There are few things, and no sport, in the world better than baseball. Everything about the game is a thing of beauty. That wonderful sound of the crack of the bat, the chess match between pitcher and batter, sunflower seeds, home runs, big strikeouts, all of it holds a special place for many Americans.
To go along with baseball being my favorite sports, as anyone reading this likely knows the Pittsburgh Pirates, warts and all, are and forever will be my favorite baseball team. The Pittsburgh Baseball Club has had a lot of bad seasons in my life. In my 27 years on this planet, not including the 1992 during which I was born, the Pirates have had a winning record in just 4 of the 27 seasons I have been alive for.
Despite their struggles, I have never once wanted a Pirate season to end. Even when the team is bad, it’s still my favorite team playing my favorite sport and once the season ends that is gone until March. Well, for the first time in my life I am ready for the Pirates season to end. Why? Because the 2019 season has been the season from hell for the Pirates.
Entering the season the Pirates were expected to have one of the best starting rotations in the National League to go with a shutdown bullpen. Well, entering play on Tuesday the Pirates team ERA of 5.24 was 27th worst in the Majors and next to last in the NL. So, it goes without saying that the pitching staff has not lived up to its expectations.
2018 trade deadline big fish acquisition Chris Archer completely bombed in 2019. He posted a career worst 5.19 ERA and 5.02 FIP in 23 starts. Archer made two trips to the injured list, with the second ending his season early.
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Budding ace Jameson Taillon was expected to continue his growth into being one of the best starting pitchers in the NL this season. Instead, Taillon continued to be one of the unluckiest human beings on the planet. Seven starts into his season he was placed on the IL, this eventually led to his second Tommy John Surgery. Now Taillon will be out until at least Spring Training 2020.
To round out the starting rotation, Trevor Williams had the worst season of his now three-year career, top prospect Mitch Keller has struggled to the tune of a 7.71 ERA at the MLB level, and free agent acquisition Jordan Lyles pitched poorly before being traded to Milwaukee.
As for the bullpen, well, there has been as many off the field issues as on the field ones.
Keone Kela spent the better part of three months on the IL. After returning, he was suspended by the team due to an altercation with a staff member. He then was handed a 10-game suspension by MLB for his role in the Pirates and Reds melee on July 29th.
Kela was expected to be a shutdown set up man for the Pirates this season. When he’s been pitching he has been just that with a 2.45 ERA and a 31% strikeout rate. Kyle Crick was expected to join him as a shutdown set up man. Well, prior to his season ending due to suffering a finger injury that required surgery in a clubhouse fight with Felipe Vazquez, Crick had completely imploded to the tune of a 4.96 ERA, 5.95 FIP, 15.5% walk rate, and 1.84 HR/9. Factor in the implosion of Richard Rodriguez and the bullpen has gone from a perceived strength to, at best, inconsistent.
Crick, like Vazquez, was also suspended for his role in the melee with the Reds. In addition to his fight with Vazquez, Crick got into an altercation with bullpen coach Herbie Andrade which led to Andrade being suspended by the Pirates.
Now, for the latest blow to the Pirates, the aforementioned Vazquez. By now you all know Vazquez was arrested and charged with awful, disturbing crimes on Tuesday. It goes without saying that Vazquez, the one time superstar and best reliever in baseball, will never pitch for the Pirates, or likely any MLB team, again.
In addition to their plethora of off field issues, the on field product has been subpar as well.
At the All-Star Break the team owned a 44-45 record and was just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL Central and of the second NL Wild Card spot. Well, following a 6-0 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday night the Pirates are now 21-41 since the All-Star Break. This has caused their record to plummet to a woeful 65-86.
Having a stretch like this after the All-Star Break should lead to multiple people losing their jobs. Factor in all of the off the field issues the Pirates have had as well, primarily the amount issues in the clubhouse, and the question should not will people lose their jobs but how many people will lose their jobs?
Let’s not forget the injuries, either. More players have hit the IL this season than any other in franchise history. 16 players from the team’s Opening Day roster/projected Opening Day roster have spent time on the IL this season. And that doesn’t include Edgar Santana and Chad Kuhl missing the season due to Tommy John Surgery, not does it include players that were promoted from the minors during the season that then hit the IL.
There have been success stories for the Pirates this season. Outfielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Kevin Newman have been two of the best rookies in baseball and both look like cornerstones moving forward. Former first round pick Josh Bell has finally put it all together as a hitter, and multi-time All-Star outfielder Starling Marte has had arguably the best season of his career. However, the negatives greatly outweigh these positives.
To be honest, it is tough to think of a professional sports team that has had a 10 week stretch like the Pirates have had since the All-Star Break. 20 games under .500, players fighting players, players fighting coaches, players getting arrested, yeah, it’s time for change.
The 2019 season has been one straight out of hell for the Pirates. As a result, owner Bob Nutting needs to step up and make sure changes are made. Clint Hurdle and his coaching staff need to go, as does general manager Neal Huntington and his scouting department. Will the sweeping changes that are needed be made? Within the next few weeks we will find out.