Morning Report: The Pirates Through 29 Games

The Pittsburgh Pirates have a 13-16 record and they obviously haven’t looked good many times this season. The important thing to note is that they were 11-18 at this point last year, so there is recent history that says don’t give up on this season just yet. There were only three teams with a worse record at the same point last year, which means 17 of the 26 better teams didn’t make the playoffs.

The Pirates obviously have talent on the team, which is why the season is frustrating so far. It also doesn’t help that they are losing to NL Central teams, going 4-13 against teams that aren’t the lowly Milwaukee Brewers. There could be help on the way, with the schedule makers kind enough to put a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies on the schedule starting on Monday. The Phillies are one of nine teams in the Majors with a worse winning % than the Pirates and their offense-friendly ballpark could be just what the Pirates’ bats need to help them wake up.

Speaking of those bats, because the pitching has been solid this year and could get even better if Charlie Morton is half as good as he looked last night for Altoona. It is easy to look at the Pirates and see where the improvements can be made. Starling Marte is the only regular right now that is playing to expectations, while you could also make a case for Neil Walker being close, unless you were hoping for the 2014 version and not the 2011-13 version, which is the more likely outcome.

That leaves six position players that could show improvements and in the cases of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer, we saw much better results from them just last year. When 1/3 of your lineup has room for huge improvements, including your best player, then there is reason to be optimistic at this point with 133 games left to go.

There is also the matter of the awful pinch-hitting that we have seen this season. As a group, they have a lower OPS than the pitching staff(.319 vs .308). Since they aren’t sending up awful hitters to pinch-hit, you shouldn’t expect the awful results to continue. That is especially true if the Pirates plan to give regulars off more often to keep them fresh, which was a topic they discussed during Spring Training often. It should keep the bench hitters from getting stale, while allowing the starters to recuperate better during the dog days of summer.

As I’ve said, there is still reason to be optimistic at this point. It’s early, regulars are in a slump, they only have six NL Central games over the next four weeks. It would be nice if they start to look like a contender this weekend and carry it into Philadelphia. The St Louis Cardinals after all, aren’t going to win 120+ games like they are on pace to do right now. That would be a Major League record and they are not a powerhouse team, especially not when they are missing their top pitcher for the rest of the season. They will return to the pack and as long as the Pirates play up to their capabilities, then things will look a lot different by the middle of the season.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 8-5 to the Cardinals on Friday night. Vance Worley gets his sixth start today. The Pirates are 2-3 when he starts this season. He gave up one run over six innings in his last start, which was against the Cardinals. Carlos Martinez is on the mound tonight for the Cardinals. He is undefeated this season, though he is coming off an outing against the Cubs in which he gave up seven earned runs over 3.2 innings.

In the minors, there are no top prospects pitching tonight, but it’s a good list of names. Casey Sadler has made four starts for Indianapolis, he has gone at least six innings each time and he has allowed three earned runs or less in each game. Jason Creasy has a 2.00 ERA through five starts. In one outing, he gave up four earned runs. In the other four combined, he has allowed two earned runs.  Steven Brault allowed one earned run over ten innings in his last two starts combined(each five innings). You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (13-16) vs Cardinals (22-7) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Vance Worley (3.90 ERA, 10:23 BB/SO, 30.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (17-12) @ Scranton/WB (14-15) 4:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Casey Sadler (2.81 ERA, 5:16 BB/SO, 25.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (16-10) @ Harrisburg (10-17) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jason Creasy (2.00 ERA, 9:14 BB/SO, 27 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (14-15) @ Palm Beach (16-13) 5:35 PM(season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.15 ERA, 6:15 BB/SO, 20.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (16-11) vs Charleston (17-11) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex McRae (2.30 ERA, 4:14 BB/SO, 23.0 IP)


From Thursday, a two-run homer from Stetson Allie, his third home run of the season.

From Friday, a triple from Josh Bell. It was his fifth triple, which leads the Eastern League.

Recent Transactions

5/8: Charlie Morton assigned to Altoona on rehab.

5/8: Nick Kingham placed on disabled list. Adam Miller added to Indianapolis roster.

5/7: Clayton Richard assigned to Bradenton. Felipe Gonzalez assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/7: Colten Brewer added to WV Power roster. Eric Dorsch assigned to WV Black Bears

5/7: Jeff Inman added to Altoona roster. Tyler Sample sent to WV Black Bears.

5/6: Andrew Lambo placed on 15-day disabled list. Steve Lombardozzi selected from Indianapolis.

5/6: Adam Frazier activated from Altoona disabled list. Andy Vasquez assigned to Indianapolis.

5/6: Brad Lincoln added to Indianapolis roster. Charlie Leesman assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/5: Josh Wall added to Indianapolis. Brad Lincoln assigned to WV Black Bears.

5/4: Barrett Barnes assigned to Bradenton. Junior Sosa assigned to Extended Spring Training.

5/1: Jerrick Suiter placed on disabled list. Austin Coley added to WV Power roster.

5/1: Pirates sign pitcher Robert Stock.

4/29: Jaff Decker placed on disabled list. Wilkin Castillo added to Indianapolis roster.

4/27: Jeremy Bleich promoted to Altoona

4/26: John Sever added to WV Power roster. Austin Coley transferred to WV Black Bears roster.

4/25: Jonathan Schwind placed on disabled list.

4/25: Justin Sellers transferred from Bradenton to Indianapolis on rehab.

4/25: Jeremy Bleich added to Bradenton roster.


This Date in Pirates History

Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, and a game from 78 years ago that seemed like the Pirates were playing the Pirates. Players born on this date include 1952 first baseman Tony Bartirome, who was signed the previous year by Pie Traynor. His playing career wasn’t that memorable, but older fans might recognize the name because he was the trainer for the Pirates for 19 seasons, include two World Series(1971,79) seasons. So you could say that Traynor signed the trainer.

Also born on this date, Culley Rickard, who played for the Pirates from 1941-42 and then again in 1947. In between, he served three years in the military during WWII. Finally, catcher Dan Sullivan who caught one game on Opening Day of the 1886 season when the Pirates(then called Alleghenys) played their only Opening Day doubleheader. He went 0-for-4 with two errors and it ended up being the last game of his five-year career.

On this date in 1937, the Pirates faced a Braves team that used six players that had either already played for the Pirates, or would later in their career. The team was also managed by Bill McKechnie, who played for and managed the Pirates. The Braves(who were also called the Bees back then) used former/future Pirates Deb Garms, Vince DiMaggio, Al Lopez, Elbie Fletcher, Tommy Thevenow and Guy Bush in the game. Pittsburgh won and moved to 11-3 on the season. You can view the boxscore here.

  • It IS a long season…it just FEELS like a longer season right now.

    I sure hope we can whip up on the Phils. I am hoping to make the May 14 game at CBC.

  • Sure there is a ton of room to improve and I don’t expect the pirates to be this bad all year. My main concern as it was last year is this, if you can’t beat your division you can’t win your division. The pirates are quicly becoming the get healthy team for the cards, reds and to a degree cubs. Kinda hard to make a case for being a contender when you get smacked around by your own division. Yes a lot of these games are one run close games, however the only stat that counts for more than bragging rights is w/l. Hopefully by the end of the month this will all be a bad dream.