Jordy Mercer is a free agent at the end of the year, and currently on the disabled list.

Adeiny Hechavarria was brought in to boost the infield depth, and has done a good job so far, but is also a free agent at the end of the year.

Kevin Newman is the best internal replacement option for the starting shortstop in 2019. He’s currently up in the majors, and might have a shot at being an option for the start of next year.

And yet with Mercer on the disabled list, and Newman in the majors, the Pirates have started Hechavarria the last two nights.

I could see not starting Newman in his first game in the majors, since he would have just arrived with the team. But it doesn’t make sense to bring him up and bench him right now. There are about 2.5 reasons why Newman should be starting daily right now.

2.5 would be the current average percentage that the Pirates are making the playoffs in simulations. There are currently 11 teams in the NL who have any playoff odds, and the Pirates rank last among them in an average of the simulations between FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Clay Davenport, and FiveThirtyEight. Their chances are 2.5%, with a high of 3% and a low of 1.8%.

This makes sense. The Wild Card teams are projected to finish with 88-89 wins. For the Pirates to get to 88 wins right now from their 61-62 record, they would need to finish the season with a 27-12 record, which is a .692 winning percentage. And that’s just to get to a point where they would force a one-game playoff in order to get into the Wild Card game.

Perhaps the Pirates could do the unthinkable and go on an impressive run over the next six weeks. We’re not far removed from the team going 21-9 from July 8th through August 11th, so it’s not impossible for the team to play at that high of a rate for a long period.

But it’s improbable. As that 2.5% chance would indicate.

All you need to do to look at this objectively is imagine what you’d do if you were the Giants. They’re also 61-62, and have a 3.05% average chance of making the playoffs. That’s slightly higher than the Pirates, and I don’t think anyone would advocate for them to go for it this year.

The thing is, the Pirates can still go for it. It’s not like they have a team full of veterans who won’t be around next year. Their starting rotation, lineup, and bullpen are all under control for at least one more season, and many under control for years beyond 2019.

But right now they have one shortstop under team control for 2019, and that’s Kevin Newman. At this point, he needs to be starting daily. It wouldn’t hurt to get Kevin Kramer in the majors and see what he can do as well, so that the team can make a better informed decision on Josh Harrison for next year. But Newman should be a priority for playing time right now, and for the rest of the season.

The Pirates can try all they want to make the best of that 2.5% chance of making the playoffs this year. They should really be focusing on improving their chances for next year, and that would involve playing Newman, and finding out if he can be their starter for 2019.

PLAYOFF PUSH

The Pirates are in fourth place in their division, trailing by 11 games with 39 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by 6.5 games.

Indianapolis is in second place, a 1/2 game back with 17 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by one game with 18 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by four games.

Bradenton is in sixth place and trails by 15.5 games with 16 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in fourth place and trails by 12 games with 18 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by three games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and they trail by 10.5 games with 17 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in third place and trails by four games with 12 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by 1.5 games.

The GCL Pirates have been eliminated from the playoff race.

The DSL Pirates1 have been eliminated from the playoff race.

The DSL Pirates2 have been eliminated from the playoff race.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 1-0 to the Chicago Cubs on Friday night. Joe Musgrove will get the start today, coming off of his outing on August 12th when he gave up three runs over six innings against the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs will counter with right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who has a 5.06 ERA in 99.2 innings, with 85 strikeouts and a 1.80 WHIP. In his last start against the Pirates back in April, he allowed five runs over five innings. In relief on August 1st, he threw a shutout inning against the Pirates.

The minor league schedule includes Tyler Eppler getting the start for Indianapolis. He has given up at least three runs in each of his last six starts. Indianapolis needs to finish yesterday’s game first, which will start back up in the second inning today. Cam Vieaux has made six road starts and six home starts with Altoona. He has a 5.17 ERA on the road and 2.41 at home. Bradenton’s Mike Wallace has a 5.50 ERA in 12 starts and a 3.95 ERA in 12 relief appearances. West Virginia’s Sergio Cubilete gave up one run over five innings in his last start. Eighth round pick Zach Spears gave up one run on one hit over five innings in his last start for Morgantown.

MLB: Pittsburgh (61-62) vs Cubs (71-50) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Joe  Musgrove (3.49 ERA, 62:20 SO/BB, 80.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (66-57) @ Lehigh Valley (74-49) 5:35 PM DH(season preview)
Probable starter: Tyler Eppler (3.74 ERA, 100:33 SO/BB, 130.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (66-53) @ Portland (52-69) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (3.61 ERA, 56:15 SO/BB, 72.1 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (51-65) @ Jupiter (65-55) 1:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Mike Wallace (5.06 ERA, 65:17 SO/BB, 96.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (61-56) vs Charleston (56-63) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Sergio Cubilete (5.22 ERA, 61:34 SO/BB, 69.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (23-36) vs Williamsport (24-33) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Zach Spears (6.53 ERA, 21:13 SO/BB, 30.1 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (27-29) @ Burlington (17-39) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (22-23) vs Phillies East 10:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (29-35) vs Rangers1 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (25-39) vs Mariners 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona, for the first time in about two months, no minor league highlight video was up on YouTube, so here’s a Twitter gif for Tyler Gaffney’s three-run homer from Thursday night.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

8/17: Sherten Apostel sent to Texas Rangers as the PTBNL in the Keone Kela trade.

8/16: Pirates recall Kevin Newman and Jordan Luplow. Jacob Stallings optioned to Indianapolis.

8/16: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list.

8/16: Casey Sadler designated for assignment.

8/16: Brad Case promoted to Bristol.

8/15: Travis Swaggerty, Luke Mangieri and Connor Kaiser promoted to West Virginia.

8/15: Dylan Busby activated from West Virginia disabled list. Oneil Cruz placed on disabled list.

8/15: Montana DuRapau placed on disabled list.

8/15: Nick Burdi assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/14: Pirates sign Johan Montero.

8/14: West Virginia assigns Ben Bengtson, Fabricio Macias and Kyle Watson to Morgantown.

8/14: Bligh Madris placed on disabled list. Justin Harrer promoted to Bradenton.

8/14: Shane Baz traded as the player to be named later to the Rays.

8/13: AJ Schugel assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/13: Jackson Williams activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/12: Miami Marlins acquire Christopher Bostick for cash.

8/12: Pirates recall Jacob Stallings. Option Jordan Luplow.

8/12: Stephen Alemais placed on the DL. Jin-De Jhang added to Altoona roster.

8/11: Pirates recall Michael Feliz and Buddy Boshers. Clay Holmes and Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

8/11: Jin-De Jhang placed on temporary inactive list.

8/10: Pirates recall Clay Holmes. Option Dovydas Neverauskas to Indianapolis.

8/10: Afredo Reyes assigned to Altoona. Dylan Busby assigned to Bristol.

8/8: Luis Nova and Denny Roman promoted to Bristol. Yerry De Los Santos promoted to GCL Pirates.

8/8: John Pomeroy promoted to West Virginia. Alec Rennard and Argenis Romano promoted to Morgantown.

8/8: Rodolfo Castro activated from West Virginia disabled list.

8/8: Josh Bell activated from disabled list. Jose Osuna optioned to Indianapolis.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Seven former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including the great Roberto Clemente. Four years ago in the Morning Report, I paid tribute to him on his 80th birthday. That article can be found here. Six years ago, I posted an article relating to the day the Pirates took him in the Rule 5 draft and the reactions around baseball to the news. You can see that article here. Other players born on this date include another Hall of Famer.

Burleigh Grimes spent five seasons with the Pirates but it took three different stints with the team to amass those five seasons. He was at his peak with the team in 1928-29, when he won 42 games. The next year, he had very high salary demands and the Pirates shipped him away. He came back four years later to finish off his career with 270 wins, which got him elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964.

Mike Lavalliere, catcher from 1987 until 1993. Hit .278 in 609 games for the Pirates. Came over from the Cardinals as part of the Tony Pena trade.

Paul Popovich, middle infielder for the 1974-75 Pirates. Hit .211 in 84 games for Pittsburgh.

Roger Bowman, pitched for team in 1953 and 1955. Won 22 games in the minors in 1954 and 131 games total in minors, but he picked up just two Major League wins in five seasons.

Bernie Duffy, 1913 pitcher. Made two late-season starts and one relief appearance in his only Major League action. Won 15 games in a row in the minors prior to joining Pirates.

Wally Gerber, 1914-15 shortstop. Pittsburgh gave up on him to soon and he turned into a star player, getting into 1,500+ games in his career. Hit .207 in 73 games for Pirates.

The link at the beginning includes two trades of note on this date, including the 1989 swap of outfielders Billy Hatcher and Glenn Wilson.

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