After coming out flat following the All-Star break, the 2019 Pittsburgh Pirates season has been a lost cause. Despite another losing year, however, there are a few Buccos who are finishing the season on a high note.
We know many are not too fond of Erik Gonzalez and question the team’s infatuation with him. Regardless, he has had a nice bounce-back month in September despite hitting .188 in August, the second-worst of any Pittsburgh Pirates position player. He’s slashing .353/.382/.451 in September and is 13th in batting average this month with NL players who have appeared in 15 games or more. Sure he’s scattering a lot of singles, but it’s the best we have seen him this season by far. His wRC+ in September is an impressive 120 along with a 38.5% hard-hit percentage this month. Plus, he hit his only home run of the year a few days ago off James Norwood of the Chicago Cubs, so that was neat. He had five total hits and four RBI’s in the series sweep of Chicago. With a broken collarbone kicking Gonzalez’s season off back in April, it’s good to see him ending his season strong.
Similar to Gonzalez, Adam Frazier’s future role with the Pirates is questionable. With a young, top-prospect heavy infield starting to develop in Pittsburgh, Frazier could be the odd man out. Still, he has been impressive as of late. His September wRC+ is 143 and his monthly average sits at .321. Frazier also has a team-high thirteen RBI’s this month. He’s been solid defensively as well with his last error occurring way back on August 5th. However, his barrel percentage and exit velocity have both dropped off since last season and are below league average. This September push will probably not be enough to deafen the calls for Kevin Kramer or Kevin Newman to start permanently at second base next season.
Liriano’s return to Pittsburgh has been alright, albeit Francisco is throwing out of the pen now and not starting games. Through eight outings this month, opposing batters are hitting for just a .214 average. He is also yet to allow a home run this month despite his SO/9 ratio dropping over five points since August. Opponent’s hard-hit percentage is also down to just 20%, the lowest since the first month of games this year.
Certainly a bright spot on this Pirates team, the hard-throwing 26-year-old righty has been impressive all year long. He has been elite in September, however, which is why he appears here. He is yet to allow a run this month in six outings, allowing just a .150 batting average to opposing hitters. Kela also notched his first save of the year against the Cubs back on the 25th of this month. Keone missed the majority of the first half dealing with injuries and suspensions, but his stuff since returning in late July has been fantastic. Kela has only allowed one earned run the entire second half.
Perhaps the only starting pitcher who hasn’t been consistently shelled this month is Joe Musgrove. His September ERA comes in at just 2.25 in three games. His final outing in 2019 was in the 9-5 win over Chicago on the 26th where he went six innings, allowing just two runs and striking out eight in the sweep-clinching win. Musgrove’s SO/9 ratio this month is at a season-high 11.81, plus an additional season-high in strikeout percentage with 32.8%. With fellow starter Jameson Taillon set to miss all of 2020 following Tommy John surgery, the Pirates need high-level production and longer outings from Musgrove next year. Hopefully, this month is a trend for him moving forward.