Pittsburgh Pirates: From Best Record in the NL to Sub-.500 in Less Than a Month

May 29, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Rich Hill (44)
May 29, 2023; San Francisco, California, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Rich Hill (44) / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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After getting off to one of the best starts in franchise history and the best start in the National League, it’s taken the Pittsburgh Pirates less than a month to completely implode 

Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates were never meant to contend this season. This season was supposed to be about improvements, about seeing young guys reach the majors and be given an opportunity to start to make an impact and develop. 

However, in late April, those expectations should have changed. Hell, they needed to change. Did they change? Well, for some fans absolutely, but, unfortunately, for the front office and coaching staff they did not. 

It was just 28 games but 28 games into the season the Pittsburgh Pirates owned a National League best 20-8 record. When you own the best record in the NL on April 30th expectations should change. Especially when you’re playing in the worst division in baseball and have a 10 game lead on the preseason favorites. 

Pittsburgh looked primed to remain the talk of the baseball world. Sure, they may not have won the division or made the postseason, but there was no reason they couldn’t contend for a large portion of the season and give fans a glimpse into the future and hope for what’s to come. Provide some light at the end of the tunnel. 

Since then, all the Pirates have done is completely implode. In a month’s time the Pirates have gone from the talk of baseball to embarrassment. 

Since their 20-8 start the Pirates are a woeful 6-19. Now sitting below .500 for the first time since they were 1-2, the Pirates need to win the next two days in San Francisco, which honestly feels impossible, to avoid going to entire month or May without winning a series.  

While the starting rotation has mostly been solid in May, it’s otherwise been a calamity of errors. 

Tre bullpen has struggled with its lack of depth after Ben Cherington did little to address the bullpen in the offseason starting to shine through. Offensively, they have been miserable with runners in scoring position and have scored 3 runs or less a historically high amount of times.

The defense and fundamentals? Woof.

Infielders and pitchers alike have booted routine ground balls while mixing in terrible throws. The catchers have struggle to keep balls from the backstop while doing nothing to control opposing running games. The outfield defense has seen poor first steps, reads, and jumps leading to balls dropping in and/or runners taking extra bases. 

These struggles were on full display on Monday’s blowout loss. Poor defense in the 2nd inning and even worse 1st inning base running by Tucupita Marcano led to the Giants quickly jumping out to a 5-0 lead and never looking back. 

These struggles fall at the feet of two men — Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton

Cherington assembled this roster. Shelton is the one managing it. Everything starts and ends with them.

Cherington is doing nothing to help this struggling team. Promoting Henry Davis from the minors to attempt to help the offense, adding a reliever from AAA to attempt to lengthen the bullpen, getting players such as Chris Owings and Austin Hedges off the active roster. Something. Anything. Cherington has done nothing.

As for Shelton, he continues to make baffling decisions with the pitching staff. From pulling Mitch Keller when he’s cruising, to continuing to use Robert Stephenson in high-leverage situations. 

Also, the defensive and fundamental issues of a team always fall at the feet of the coaching staff. So, the awful defense and base running blunders first and foremost fall at the feet of Shelton.  

On May 1st the Pittsburgh Pirates had the best record in the National League. By May 29th, the Pirates are sub-.500. 28 days. Four weeks. Less than a calendar month to go from the best record in the NL to sub-.500. All while nothing changes. Unbelievable.

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