Pittsburgh Pirates: Where Do They Go From Here?

Where do the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates go from here?

Jun 21, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton (left) takes
Jun 21, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton (left) takes / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After a third straight sweep, and ninth straight loss, where do the Pittsburgh Pirates go from here?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a good second half of June. They’re currently on a nine-game losing streak, the longest losing streak they’ve had in a while. It’s extremely deflating after such a hot month of April, and then looking like they were rebounding at the end of May and into early June.

So where does the team go from here?

In my personal opinion, I do not think the Pirates are this bad. That’s not to say they’re good, but I don’t believe that they’re as bad as they’ve played the last week and a half. A nine-game losing streak for the Pirates doesn’t make them the worst team in baseball, just like the Oakland Athletics’ seven-game winning streak didn’t make them the best team in the sport either. That also doesn’t mean that I believe that the Pirates will go on a hot streak like they did in April.

The Pirates found somewhat of a middle ground between the two extremes at one point, for about a month. From May 14th through June 12th, the Pirates were 13-11. That’s a stretch of just over five weeks. Again, the Pirates didn’t play like they did in April, but they also didn’t play like they did in early-May and mid-late-June.

The roster isn’t much different from that stretch either. Sure, there have been a couple of injuries, but the Pirates haven’t made any significant changes to who is on the roster, who’s playing regularly, who’s on the bench, etc. Players have returned to Earth after their red hot Aprils, but again, I still think there’s an even point between playing like all-stars, and losing nine straight. The Pirates can’t lose forever, and while they may never reach the heights of April, I don’t think the lows of June are truly who they are either. 

So what happens now? 

The Pirates need to shake things up. Something that could really revitalize the team is making another significant call-up. The Pirates already promoted Henry Davis, but the likes of Tucupita Marcano and Rodolfo Castro have struggled recently. Maybe calling up Nick Gonzales, a player who can man shortstop and second base, can help the team out. Gonzales has looked better in June, cutting his strikeout rate down under 25% during the month while also having a 131 wRC+, and .881 OPS in the month.

Once he gets on a hot streak, I'd love to see Endy Rodriguez here to. He's struggled so far this year, though with a 74 wRC+. However, a .274 batting average on balls in play is very low for him. He, very much like Bryan Reynolds throughout his minor league career, was a BAbip merchant who was over .330 between 2021 and 2022. Rodriguez's batted ball rates aren't much different to what they were in previous seasons either. Plus he's still walking and striking out at well above average rates. If and when Rodriguez catches fire, the Pirates need to capatalize on it and get him to the bigs.

The Pirates also desperately need to figure out what’s going on in the bullpen. Jose Hernandez and Colin Holderman are on the injured list. Dauri Moreta has seemingly lost what made him so dominant in the first two months of the year. Calling up Carmen Mlodzinski is a step in the right direction, but they should also consider promoting Colin Selby. Selby has done decent this year, though his numbers are a bit inflated because of his terrible outing right before landing on the IL for about a month. He’s still arguably the Pirates’ best relief pitching prospect.

Other than that, as fans, we just have to hope the players in the major leagues already can figure things out. I understand it’s hard to hold any optimism with how they’ve played over the last week, but there’s still a decent amount of season to go. While the heights of April may never be reached again, this rut they’re in certainly isn’t what they are either.

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