2017 Recaps: This Season Showed the Need For Top of the Rotation Performances

The Pirates had an unusual season from their starting rotation. They had a rare season in terms of health, seeing very few injuries to their starting five. This led to them only needing seven starters during the season. And that number would have been six if they didn’t give Steven Brault a few starts in September.

Typically, when you only really need to use six starters in a season, it means your rotation had an outstanding year, both in health and performance. That wasn’t exactly the case for the Pirates.

While their starters were mostly healthy, none of them stepped up with big performances. The team leader in ERA was Trevor Williams, with a 3.96 ERA, and he wasn’t even in the Opening Day rotation. The team leader in FIP was Jameson Taillon at 3.48, although his ERA was inflated by a few poor outings late in the year. Gerrit Cole led the way with a 3.81 xFIP. None of those numbers approach top of the rotation performances.

On the flip side, the five regular starters all had an ERA of 4.44 or lower, an FIP of 4.46 or lower, and an xFIP of 4.61 or lower. The league average was 4.36 across the board. Only one starter was below that mark in each category.

That created the unique problem the Pirates had. They didn’t have anyone pitching their way out of the rotation (obvious Tyler Glasnow disclaimer to follow), but they also had five pitchers who were topping out at slightly better than league average. This led to the Pirates finishing with the 12th best rotation in baseball, when they needed a better result to make up for their bottom of the league offense.

The rotation wasn’t without its problems though. Tyler Glasnow started the year in the rotation, with the hope that he would finally figure everything out. He didn’t look like he was ready during Spring Training, but the Pirates gave him a shot. He didn’t look much better in the early part of the season either.

The biggest “injury” came when Jameson Taillon was diagnosed with testicular cancer. That put him out, and brought Trevor Williams in the rotation. When Taillon returned, Williams stayed in the rotation and Glasnow went to Triple-A.

The Pirates saw improvements from Glasnow in Triple-A, seeing his velocity increasing, and continued comfort with his new changeup. But when he was called up in September, he continued to struggle in the majors. Overall, he had a 7.89 ERA and a 5.37 xFIP.

Overall, the rotation wasn’t really a problem with this team. The problem was that the Pirates needed the rotation to be better in order to make up for much larger problems in other areas. They can only hope for similar health and a league average floor from most of their starters going forward.

The Future

The Pirates probably won’t get the same health they saw in 2017, and won’t see their major struggles limited to one pitcher. For that reason, they will need guys pitching better than league average, with a few top of the rotation guys, in order to contend. That is especially important when you consider that, while the offense could improve, it won’t be a top offense anytime soon. So the Pirates will need the pitching to lead the way.

They have candidates to be top of the rotation guys. Gerrit Cole has already been that pitcher. He was a top of the rotation guy from 2013-2015, putting up some of the better numbers in baseball from a starter. He fell off in 2016 during an injury filled season, and slipped further in 2017, with home runs killing him.

Jameson Taillon showed that he is capable of being a top of the rotation guy. He had a 3.38 ERA and a 3.43 xFIP during his rookie season last year. He started this year with a 3.31 ERA and a 3.94 xFIP before his cancer diagnosis, with a poor final start elevating those numbers. After that, his season was up and down.

Taillon returned in June, and for the next month he looked like a top of the rotation guy again, with a 1.98 ERA and a 3.43 xFIP. Things fell apart for him after the All-Star break, with a 7.68 ERA and a 4.19 xFIP. However, that was mostly due to 17 earned runs in 6.2 innings over two starts at the end of July and early August, along with nine earned runs in ten innings in two starts at the end of August. He bounced back in the month of September with a 3.25 ERA and a 3.78 xFIP.

The Pirates also have a potential top of the rotation guy in Tyler Glasnow, although he is far from guaranteed. He’s only 24 years old, so it’s not time to write him off just yet. But he’s also not a guy who the Pirates should count on as anything more than a bonus, and there should be some real concerns that he might not come close to his ceiling.

Between Cole, Taillon, and Glasnow, the Pirates have a good mix of pitchers who can be above average. One guy has done it consistently, and it’s not unreasonable to expect he can get back there. One guy has done it early in his career, just not consistently. One guy is a wild card with the stuff to get there, but control holding him back.

The problem is that they only have Cole for two more seasons before he is eligible for free agency. That would leave them with Taillon and Glasnow, plus help from the minors. They do have Mitch Keller making his way to the upper levels. He could arrive as early as the middle of 2018, and should arrive by 2019. Keller has top of the rotation stuff, and is a much safer bet than Glasnow. So the Pirates should still have two options in Taillon and Keller who have a good chance at top of the rotation stuff.

Beyond those four pitchers, the Pirates have plenty of depth. They have Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams under control for five more seasons. Steven Brault looks like he could start in the majors, and is currently projected as Triple-A depth again next year. Clay Holmes might have a shot at being more than a back of the rotation guy, but will start next year back in Triple-A. Nick Kingham could also arrive next year, and still has the upside of an MLB starter.

Then there are all of the guys who project as back of the rotation guys at best, or MLB relievers who are stashed in the upper levels. Tyler Eppler is part of that group, and likely starting back in Indianapolis. Brandon Waddell, JT Brubaker, Alex McRae, Austin Coley, and Tanner Anderson will all be moving up from Altoona.

Brault, Holmes, Kingham, Eppler, Waddell, Brubaker, McRae, Coley, and Anderson. That’s nine starters for five spots in Indianapolis next year. And that doesn’t count Glasnow, who could return to the level if there isn’t a rotation spot in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates have already started moving some of their starters to the bullpen (Yeudy Garcia being the biggest one), but they’re going to need to make that switch with several pitchers in the upper levels next year, even if they trade some of them in the offseason.

The key thing here is that they don’t have a need for starters in general. It’s to the point where they could trade Ivan Nova and replace him with someone from Triple-A who could replicate his production at a much cheaper price.

What they do need are top of the rotation starters. They have that in Cole, Taillon, and maybe Glasnow and Keller in the future. But pitching is never guaranteed. There are injuries. There are unexpected poor performances. We saw that the last two years with Cole.

The Pirates could go into the 2018 season relying on Cole and Taillon, and hoping that Glasnow figures it out and Nova is more than league average. But they’d be smart to try and add another guy this offseason with the upside to be more than league average, since you can never have too many options, and since the risk of having too many good pitchers isn’t a real problem in baseball.

  • Should go hard for Shohei Ohtani. It might be impossible, but try. He’s not gonna cost much money and could be a top starter.

  • Tim, what is considered “top of the rotation”? I’m not asking to be argumentative, but to find out what you mean what you write that.

    I’d offer that it’s something like a #1 starter on a good team, so let’s say a top-15 SP. Top 30 is not good enough.

    Last year by FIP, of 125 with min 100 IP, they had Taillon at #20, which is pretty close to top of the rotation. Followed by Williams (42), Cole (48), Kuhl (61), Nova (76).

    By ERA, their highest ranked was Williams at 49, and Taillon drops to 78, the rest in between.

    By xFIP, the ranks are, 32 – Cole, 37 Taillon, 53 Nova, 66 Williams, 82 Kuhl.

    If you split the 125 qualified pitchers into five quantiles, and assert that you should have at least one pitcher in a quantile or higher quantile, they fell short in ERA and xFIP, but did better than average in FIP (with 2 #2s)

    So, anyway, what does top of the rotation mean to you?

  • The major issue I have with the handling of pitchers in the minors and how they handle them, is they run the risk of letting a lot of them “die on the vine” at the upper levels. You are not going to have enough space in the majors and AAA rotation for guys like Kingham, Epplers, Holmes, Brault, etc… I would have loved to see them trade a few of those guys away for developed bats while they were at their prospect peak. Now, that goes more for Kingham and other top 100 type prospects more so than Eppler and other guys who never came close to cracking the top 100.

    By hoarding all of the prospects, and at the same time preferring veterans in the bullpen, we are watching some of them not develop to their ceiling, without a clear path to the majors, and now lacking trade value that they may have had earlier in their development.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    October 26, 2017 8:03 pm

    Off topic…too bad the FO renewed CH’s contract – Girardi would have been a great hire….

    • Very doubtful he would consider coming here…He would prob just hang out with his family more and do tv.

  • Time to actively seek trade of Cole, Nova, Kuhl, or any SP w value not named Taillon or Keller for MLB ready power hitters.

    As the song says, the time’s they are a changing.

    • Not in Pittsburgh

      # 4 more years

      • Probably right. I’m not expecting much of anything worth talking about this winter. Hope I’m wrong.

    • Therein lies the issue. If the Pirates are ready to dump Cole and, to a lesser extent, Kuhl…in no way can they justify keeping Cutch (and probably Harrison) around for a wasted season. And if they deal all those guys, it’s a rebuild…and if the team is going rebuild mode…they pretty much have to part with the biggest asset on the roster…Rivero.

      • I just don’t understand how this team has fallen so far so fast.

      • If they can dump Cole for a difference making bat, then I don’t see it as you do. If however they are looking for prospects who need more development, than your point is spot on.

        • I just disagree with the classification.

          Trading Cutch, Cole, and Harrison – three guys within two years of free agency – and keeping the rest of the talent on this club just is not a “rebuild”. I think the word scares people more than the action.

        • Throw in Marte, Polanco, Rivero, and whatever you can get for the rest of the vets and *that’s* a rebuild.

        • Any ideas who?

          I’m struggling to think of a name. With the salary constraints, the bat would have to fit in line with Cole’s earnings…so $6M or less. And not be C, 1B, or OF. So that leaves a middle infielder or third base.

          I’m sure there are some that fit the bill, but Franco is one of the few coming to mind…then there’s Gallo. But I’m struggling for someone who fits the position, salary, and who isn’t a prospect…and even the ones I come up with are projects.

          But, even if you make that deal, I don’t know if the rotation can take that hit. Cole may not be the number one we envisioned, but I think he’s 2. Take him away, and this rotation is a lot weaker. Maybe Taillon steps up and replaces his production…if not, the only other hope is that dreaded: “well, if Glasnow can somehow find himself…”

          All the other arms at AAA…meh, I think there’s some genuine ML talent there, but I’m really not seeing anything better than Kuhl or Williams.

          • Didi is about as perfect of a swap as you can get; same years of control remaining, similar salaries, similar value. NYY has Gleybar to take over SS, Pirates have arms – if not lesser ones – to take over the open spot in the rotation.

            I just don’t think that moves the needles for the Pirates, however.

            I haven’t started thinking much about this stuff yet – it’s a long winter, lets save our mental energy – but I keep coming back to sending Cole home to SoCal. I think it would be a coup to grab Austin Barnes before he establishes himself as a full-time starting catcher.

      • If you accept the proposition that the budget can’t be more than $100 million, I don’t see how they will compete in 2018 under any circumstances. I honestly believe that they should be able to spend more than that but it’s not up to me. If they won’t, then their best course of action would be a complete rebuild. There does not appear to be enough young talent on this team to replace the veteran players they have, let alone improve upon them

        • I still fail to see the point in selling what young talent they do have in a “complete rebuild”. This is an org who realistically should *always* be selling veterans nearing the end of their contract unless the club is at the very peak of the win curve.

          The 2018 club most certainly will not be, so guys like Cole and Harrison and certainly Cutch are fair game. But Marte and Polanco and Rivero and Bell and Taillon? Can someone explain what that gets them in the long run?

          • Realistically I think they could compete in 2020. So I don’t think it makes any sense to get rid of Bell, Rivero or Taillon. At this point I’d certainly be willing to listen on Polonco but mostly because I don’t know that he’s ever going to be good. I think those three guys and Marte are players they can build around to try and compete in 2020 or 2021. But, as currently configured they’re just not very close. Doesn’t make sense for them to hold on to Cutch, Cole, or Harrison if they’re not going to add substantially to the current team because as constructed they are not a player or two away.

            • I very much agree but think they should be pushed to contend even sooner, in 2019.

              2020, even if more realistic, would be *five years* since their last winning team. That’s the timeline for a full rebuild itself.

              If Huntington takes a true-talent 90-win club and needs five years to make them a winner again he simply is not deserving of one of the 30 most prestigious jobs on this planet for his professional. That’s failure by any means.

              If this isn’t a playoff club in 2019, he’s failed in my mind and doesn’t deserve another chance.

  • I 100% agree that adding one top of the rotation kind of guy to the Pirates would solve a lot of problems. I think their staff is just average and their bullpen is below average. I look for Nova to continue his decline and think this year is the “new normal” for Cole. Bringing in a true 1 could make this staff really good to great and at the same time vastly improve the bullpen. Hard for me to see them doing that given the high cost of pitching and given that starting pitching has been measurably the least of their problems.

    This will be an interesting off season for sure. I think the problems are many so I am hoping they don’t stand pat with what they have. If I were GM I’d look to acquire pitching. I’d also look to acquire defense first sort of players. The 2017 team had way too many guys who can’t competently field a position. I believe that the pitching could look much better if there were fewer Jaso type players behind it. Obviously they need to do something about the offense. I’m just wondering if they will be willing to spend what they’ll need to spend to address everything.

  • I think Cole peaked and is more a two then one. Let’s face it, they have t we o possible twos, one three and two fours.

    • Cole might be a 2 but he might be a 3 as well. I don’t think Nova is better than a 4. Ditto Williams and Kuhl. To me Taillon may be a 1 but he may be a 4 too. And Glasnow? He’s a relief pitcher, not even a closer. I know he’s young but dude doesn’t have it in my opinion.

      All of them would be better if good defensive players were behind them. Too bad that’s not the case either.

      GM has lots of work to do

  • I’m a little surprised by the number of Altoona pitchers moving up. I would think Sadler would also be in that mix. Does Hinsz get the promo despite injury uncertainty?

    • I’m looking forward to this series later in the winter. I think Tim usually does a set of articles on projected rosters, but I could be mistaken.

      I tend to agree with you, though. After Keller and Agrazal, there really weren’t any legit prospects in Bradenton deserving of bumping up to Altoona in a starting role. You could argue in favor of Hearn despite continued injuries, if for nothing else than to try to speed up his development, but Hinsz clearly isn’t ready.

      • Anderson and McRae I could see moving to the pen although there’s no guarantee of Neverauskas Santana making the 25. I’d like to see what Coley can do in AAA if there was only 1.

      • I do that series, and it will be coming next month, after the recaps are done (tomorrow) and after the AFL stories are done (next two weeks).

  • Glasnow might have one of the better hitting upsides in upper minors. Plus baserunning ability. Maybe give him some work in the outfield 😉

  • I hope this team learned something about pitch mix and predictability of the all fastballs, all the time approach. Really have to think a lot of teams would get more out of Cole and taillon than pirates do.

    • To a certain degree, I agree with you. I don’t pay a lot of attention to what
      pitches they throw, only the results.

      I am beginning to wonder if maybe Ray Searage is a tad bit overrated.
      Admittedly, he has done an outstanding job of rejuvenating seemingly
      over the hill pitchers. But Cole, Taillon and Glasnow were supposed to
      be stars and to date they are anything but…

      • I’d say this is more a matter of *any* coach who gets that kind of persona eventually coming back down to earth.

        Ray Searage is a fantastic coach, but baseball is impossibly hard.

        That being said a few of their building blocks – three pitches or less, extreme fastball usage – do seem awfully antiquated in today’s game.

        • Gotta wonder what statistical advantage they see in that 3 pitches or less mindset. I’d imagine that was passed from the higher ups down to Searage, and wasn’t something that Searage just came up with. Everything we know indicates that pitchers shouldn’t go through the lineup a 3rd time *anyway*, so i dont understand caring a ton about length of AB.

          Unless that mindset can help prevent walks enough to counter the lack of Ks? no idea.

          whatever they’re doing, they need to change things for Cole. that 1.4 HR/9 aint doing a thing for anybody. Then again, as hard as it is to believe, Cole still managed to be 28th in FIP and 24th in xFIP among qualified SP. The era of the sub-3 FIP might be pretty much over now except for the 5-10 best pitchers in baseball.

          • Do they still do the Piratesfest q&A. If so, would love for someone to ask them and hear their defense of pitch to contact in today’s game with record homeruns and all the data on TTOP.

          • They’ve explicitly cited this strategy as a means of allowing starters to go deeper into ballgames, which as you said, is f*cking batshit crazy.

            Okay, you didn’t say that, but the point was made. 😉

            So much of the last few years has just seemed completely disjointed in this organization, this being one for the pile. I mean, Dan Fox’s crew cannot actually still be advocating this kind of strategy, right?

        • It’s a game of adjustments. Time for Pirates to adjust back. Can they is the million dollar question. BN obviously thinks so.

          • Speaking of! I passed the man himself on my ride home last night as he was walking across the Clemente.

            I smiled very wide and thought of PP comenters. He looked very nervous. With cause, admittedly.

      • Yes, I guess Cole finishing 4th in cy young voting in 2015 is just passe to you. He probably would have won it with better coaching?

  • Another really, really well-written recap. Great series so far.

  • rickmontgomery
    October 26, 2017 10:32 am

    Take a risk. Go get Drew Smyly if he remains available. Or how about Gio Gonzalez – the Nats can’t keep everyone, can they?

  • This is particularly concerning in that NH’s approach was to gather pitching. His thought was that pitching was the hardest (most expensive) to get in the open market, so he focused on that. So far that hasn’t paid off to the extent one would wish. The Cubs took the approach of getting the best bats they could, on the idea they could add pitchers (and they have the budget room to do just that). That was the Astros approach as well. Milwaukee built with hitters, then rebuilt with hitters again and appear on the edge of being a real contender next season. The positive to building with bats is that there is more excitement for the fans in a five to four game than in a one to nothing game. More excitement, more attendance. All things considered, I’m just wondering if the pitching first approach is as workable in practice as it is in theory.

    • Good point. In theory I understand the idea of small market team getting elite pitching that is cost controlled but the reality is nh simply isn’t skilled enough to execute the plan. And this team has just been plain lousy as far as acquiring young position player talent.

    • They did gather pitching. Cole, Taillon, and Kuhl were all drafted. Williams and Brault were acquired via trade, with Brault being added in the low levels when he didn’t have strong MLB upside. Kingham, Holmes, Eppler, Waddell, Brubaker, and all of the other depth options in Triple-A were drafted.

      They drafted and developed two guys who have been top of the rotation guys in the majors at times in Cole and Taillon. One more who has a shot in Glasnow, even if it’s a long shot. Another one who has a better chance in Keller.

      The Pirates are widely known as a team that does well developing pitchers. The results prove that.

      If there’s any flaw in the strategy, it’s that they haven’t acquired hitters at nearly the same success rate. But that has nothing to do with the approach to add pitching.

      • There is a serious need to overhaul their pitch to contact philosophy. Just mind numbing in an era where the homerun to contact ratio has never been higher

        And quit throwing so many fastballs and in partIcular stop the love affair with the 2 seamer

      • Sadly machado alone would have basically outproduced all those guys put together, or damn near it.

        • The Orioles would have also taken Taillon if they had the choice. I know that for a fact.

          • So what? First of all accepting your story as true- all that means is the orioles would have made a major mistake as well

            And this isn’t all hindsight- there was a study at time detailing the much higher bust rate of prep pitchers vs position players due to injury/projectability.

            Second of all I’m guessing a scout told you that? I’m not taking anyone’s word for gospel as to what GM ultimately would have done. And like I said, it doesn’t matter anyway

            • any team’s fans can play the “we could have Star X if we’d just taken him instead of Y”. it’s just the nature of baseball. The draft is hard.

              I’m just glad Taillon looks like no worse than a strong #3 or better. They couldve taken Christian Colon or Barrett Loux or Karsten Whitson or Michael Choice or Deck Mcguire just as easily as they couldve taken Machado.

              There are so many actual busts in the top 10 of drafts, that i’m just glad they got a real, honest to goodness above average player.

              The lack of Machado will hurt forever in that the 2015 team probably wouldve won the division. Otherwise, Machado wouldnt really have changed their destinies that much anyway, tbh.

              • Correct. From a process perspective I think they were close enough in terms of perceived talent at the time it made much more sense to pick the position player. But yeah, it’s water under the bridge now.

              • “any team’s fans can play the “we could have Star X if we’d just taken him instead of Y”. it’s just the nature of baseball. The draft is hard.”


                Huntington could have used the Pirates first ten picks in the 2009 draft to get:

                Mike Trout, Nolan Arenado, Kyle Seager, Brandon Belt, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Goldschmidt, Brian Dozier, Matt Carpenter, Khris Davis and Marcus Stroman.

                He didn’t.

                Worst. GM. Ever.

                • The NH drafts have been stellar. That’s why we are swimming in all this young talent.

                • It seems like the angels missed big on Nolan Arenado, Kyle Seager, Brandon Belt, Dallas Keuchel, Paul Goldschmidt, Brian Dozier, Matt Carpenter, Khris Davis and Marcus Stroman

                • fire.gif

                • How many other teams can say the same thing? This is the most asinine comment I’ve read on this board in a while. Congrats for moving the bar.

                • Trout was pick 25. Arenado 59. Seager 82. Belt 147. Keuchel 221. Goldy 246. Dozier 252. Carp 399. Davis 226. Stroman 532.

                  But Huntington’s the worst GM ever for not seeing them as top 10 guys. give me a break.

                  The next guys after Sanchez were…

                  Hobgood, Wheeler, Minor, Leake, Turner, Storen, Matzek, Crow, Grant Green, Matt Purke, Alex White, Bobby Borchering. then finnnnallyyy AJ Pollock and SHelby miller were taken at 17 and 19.

                  If you want to criticize their choice in round 1 of 2009, use Wheeler, Leake, Storen, Pollock, and Miller to make your argument. Give me a break with guys taken at 25,59, 147, 221, 246, 252, 399, 226, and 532. Holy cow.

                • Terrible scouting staff at the time, mostly holdovers from the Littlefield era. He made staff changes, and got better results. Which is what you want management to do, hold people accountable.

            • I heard from someone with the Orioles shortly after the draft that Taillon was ahead of Machado on their board, and they were set to take him if they had the choice.

              Also, it is hindsight when you’re comparing what Machado has done so far. No one knew Machado would do what he’s done.

              The “They made a mistake by taking Player A over Player B” is the worst draft analysis. The best thing is to look at what we knew at the time. In this case, there was a strong belief that Taillon was the better pick. And it’s not even like he’s been a bust. He’s coming off a 2.9 fWAR year in his first full season when he wasn’t even at his best and had cancer.

              • The Taillon over Machado was Huntingtonian to its core – defensible, but hardly ideal.

                The most rigorous piece of data I saw at the time did a breakdown on position players and prep pitcher deemed to have equal talent and utlimately said you should go with the position player from a process perspective because the pitcher is simply riskier from a injury/projection standpoint.

                That’s why this isn’t hindsight. No, no one knew what Machado would do but from a process perspective he was the better pick at the time. The fact he has put up 26 WAR with a year of control remaining just makes it sting a little more.

                The Pirates are actually quite lucky Taillon had his relatively foreseeable UCL injury before his service clock started. Of course the fact he has already had TJS puts him at higher risk for reinjury going forward.

      • It seems like the second part of that original plan, using the accumulated pitching to acquire hitters, is what has yet to occur.

        This winter might be the first time where that becomes a possibility.

        • Let’s see some trades from the pitching abundance to strengthen the catching stable.

      • Tim I’m afraid Glasnow is going to be a late bloomer and won’t develop until after the Pirates trade him.

      • I think your analysis is fairly subjective. They have, in fact, gathered pitching, unfortunately, none of the pitchers they have gathered are very good. At the very least, they are not as good as they need to be.

        To be completely fair though, I am not sure the offensive talent that is assembled could win many games with Clemens, Pedro, Johnson, Kershaw and Kluber all in their prime as the starting rotation.

  • Cole has to pitch like a 1/2 or this team is going nowhere. Williams and Kuhl were very efficient in their second year of exposure to MLB hitting and should continue to get better. Taillon showed that he is very capable of being a 1/2 when healthy. Nobody can tell how much of his energy was missing after his return from cancer. Nova has shown the ability to be 2/3.

    That said, I expect the Pirates to be very interested in teams interested in Cole, especially teams that can offer a AA or better SP and a strong hitting 3B prospect in return – Cleveland, Yankees? The kid playing for Glendale who is a C/3B or 3B/C is a perfect example of the type of hitter they need at 3B at least for the short-term.

    • Forgot to mention the “12th best rotation in baseball that needed to be better to help the bottom of the league offense”. We have a Manager who started as a hitting coach, and two others masquerading as hitting coaches – yet nothing seems to happen to even try to show an attempt to get better. The Hitting Coach at AA Altoona has had a lot of success the past two years.

      • Having enough talented athletes who are willing/ desire to learn the intricacies of MLB hitting would be quite helpful to any coach. I don’t believe the coaching is the real issue with not hitting here. Some of our hitters get it and some will swing at that same pitch changeup or low outside curve over and over. We lack hitting lineup talent ….and with a group of #3s in the rotation, could be a long road back to competitiveness unless this whole thing is rebuilt.

        • It’s a ‘chicken or the egg’ sort of thing. Are the players not developing because of poor coaching or just because they aren’t good players to begin with. I think it’s lack of talent to begin with but at this point who knows? Clearly the players aren’t developing particularly as hitters.

          Parenthetically It’s shocking to me that Hurdle and NH were both retained. I thought one or the other would go. In any event the decision to give each 4 years baffles me.

          • Girardi never had a losing season over 10 years. But only one championship. Does that mean NYY standards are ridiculously high or Pirates standards are ridiculously low?

            • The latter. We have a very diverse team and a talented Hispanic manager-in-waiting, Joey Cora, just promoted from winning a AA Championship in 2016 and getting to know the guys as the 3B Coach of the Pirates in 2017.

              Hurdle redux – come in, generate enthusiasm that players buy into and the team starts to win. But then, he has difficulty sustaining that level or getting to the next level, and the players suddenly look like they are sleep walking, and the losing begins. Checkout the Hurdle years in Colorado, and how the team reacted after he was fired.

      • emjay, I agree completely with what you said. In Francisco Mejia and Tristan McKenzie, Cleveland has two prospects I would really
        relish. Same with the Yankees and Gleyber Torres and (perhaps)
        Michael Andujar would be nice building blocks.

        Also, like you, I was a bit upset when they extended Hurdle. I believe he’s been here long enough and the players no longer hear
        his message (much like in Colorado). It seems like our best position
        prospects, like Marte and Polanco, forget how to hit once they are
        on this team.

        And, for heaven’s sake… Fire Jeff Branson!

        • I just read your response and had written about the same thing above in response to Bucs. After Dan O’Dowd fired Hurdle, the new Manager came in and guided the team to the playoffs.

          Kevin Riggs at Altoona would be a solid replacement as the Hitting Coach. He has worked with many of the young Pirates who “suddenly” became hitters like Frazier and Moroff, both of whom were struggling before getting to Riggs at AA.

          The fact that Altoona won again this year should be a solid reason for his promotion. Not a lot of HR hitters or a lot of .300+ hitters, but they make contact, run well, and get results. Doing it 2 years in a row with a new Manager and new Pitching coach in 2017.

          We lost September by not experimenting, and now we sit and do nothing to try to make things better in 2018. This team needs to be in panic mode rather than just sitting back and watching the WS.

    • You can get to the playoffs with an outstanding 3,4,5 and mediocre 1,2. But you will never win in the playoffs without outstanding 1,2 talent pitching at the top of their games.