Pittsburgh Pirates: Examining the First Two Months of 2021 Season

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 20: Gregory Polanco #25 and Kevin Newman #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates react after their 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 20: Gregory Polanco #25 and Kevin Newman #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates react after their 6-4 win over the Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on May 20, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 16: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park on May 16, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 16: Adam Frazier #26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the game against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park on May 16, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

Let’s break down the first two months of the 2021 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The 2021 season is in full swing. We’re over a month into the campaign and the Pittsburgh Pirates are currently sitting with a record. Overall, it’s been a very up-and-down season so far. The Bucs started the year 1-6 then went on an 11-5 run over their next 16 games. However, they’ve significantly cooled off. They’ve won just 6 of their last 23 games, falling to 18-28 on the season.

Through all of this, there have been some bright spots, some low spots, and some promising starts to this year. So let’s go through this team, analyzing the good, the bad, and the ugly, what could improve as the season progresses and what the rest of the season holds for this Pittsburgh Pirate team.

Infield/Catcher

The Pittsburgh Pirates lost Ke’Bryan Hayes just two games into the season, but the likes of Colin Moran, Adam Frazier, and Jacob Stallings have done their part offensively to try and make up for the loss of Hayes.

Frazier is currently slashing .335/.396/.462 with a .375 wOBA and 138 wRC+. Frazier has always avoided strikeouts and he’s doing it again this year with a 9.4% strikeout rate through 202 plate appearances. He’s drawing walks a bit more often this year with a 7.9% walk rate. Compared to his 7.4% walk rate from 2016-2020 and it’s a minor improvement, but he was approaching 10% earlier this season. However, his defense hasn’t been up to snuff compared to the last few seasons. Currently, he has -6 DRS, -1.6 range runs above average, and a -16 UZR/150. He also leads all MLB hitters with 62 base hits.

Moran is looking like a mix between his 2018-2019 play and 2020 play. Before an unfortunate injury, Moran was hitting .297/.352/.468 with 4 home runs and 7 doubles. All told, he had a .356 wOBA and 126 wRC+. Moran has a .171 isolated slugging percentage. If he keeps that up across an entire season, it’ll be a career-best mark across more than just a 60-game season. Though, walks are a bit down (8.2%) and strikeouts are a bit up (27.9%) for the now first baseman of the Bucs.

Last but not least is Stallings. Stallings is hitting .248/.356/.442 through 132 trips to the plate. Stallings is also carrying a career-best isolated slugging percentage mark of .195, but he’s walking at an outstanding 13.6% rate. Among all players with at least 120 plate appearances, he has the 23rd highest walk rate. He also has an outstanding 123 wRC+ and .35 wOBA to go along with his other strong offensive numbers. Of course, he’s kept up his Gold Glove level defense with +5 DRS and +1.1 range runs above average. There is a strong argument to make for Stallings to represent the Pittsburgh Pirates in this summer’s All-Star Game.

However, it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows across the infield. Hayes being placed on the injured list means that both Kevin Newman and Erik Gonzalez are getting more playing time than they should. Sadly, Newman has been downright awful this season. He’s currently sporting a 39 wRC+, .222 wOBA, and .497 OPS through 171 plate appearances. Though his defense at shortstop has been much better. He currently has +0 DRS, a +8 UZR/150, and -.9 range runs above average. Plus he’s been among the leaders in average in outs above average, ranking in the top 98th percentile.

Erik Gonzalez isn’t doing much better either with a 52 wRC+, .242 wOBA, and .543 OPS. He’s been one of the team’s main answers at the hot corner this season and he’s held his own defensively. He has +6 DRS, a 6.5 UZR/150, and +1 range runs above average.

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