If you’re the Cincinnati Reds, would you make a trade at the deadline and go for it in 2019?
That’s probably an easy question to answer for Pirates fans. The Reds are 42-48 and in last place in the NL Central. They sit 6.5 back in the division, and 4.5 back in the Wild Card race, but that’s because none of the teams ahead of them have pulled away from the rest of the pack. The Reds are at the bottom of that pack, with only two teams in the NL having a worse record.
It’s probably a little more difficult for Pirates fans to answer the question of whether the team will go for it. I’ve talked about how their “games back” standing is misleading. They’re 5.5 back in the division, and 3.5 back in the Wild Card. Like the Reds, that looks good. But the Pirates rank 11th in the NL with a 44-48 record, following losing a sweep at the hands of the Cubs.
If you’re not looking beyond the “games back” numbers, then maybe this will help your decision on which way the Pirates will go: They currently have a lower chance of making the playoffs than the Reds.
Yes, the Reds are behind the Pirates. But the average playoff odds from Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, Clay Davenport, and FiveThirtyEight give the Reds an 11% chance, and the Pirates a 10% chance at making the post-season. Only the Padres, Mets, Giants, and Marlins are behind the Pirates.
The Pirates might be ahead of the Reds, depending on which individual projection you look at. Baseball Prospectus and FiveThirtyEight have the Pirates slightly ahead. The problem is that the Pirates still aren’t much above the 10-11% range in any of the projections.
The current combined projections have the Dodgers with a 99.7% chance and the Braves with a 96.3% chance. I think you just need to look at the standings with those two teams to see that they’ve basically got a playoff spot reserved.
The Cubs are in the lead in the Central with an average 70.2% chance of making the playoffs. The Brewers trail them at 33% and the Cardinals are next at 26.1%.
The first Wild Card is projected for the Washington Nationals right now, with an average 65.8% chance of making the playoffs.
From there, the rest of the league is fighting for one spot. The Diamondbacks and Phillies join the Brewers and Cardinals in the 26-35% range. After that, there’s a big drop to the Rockies with a 12.8% chance, followed by the Reds and the Pirates.
Sure, nothing is guaranteed with any of these teams. But that’s not an argument the Pirates should be making. When you have almost every team in the league projected higher than you, you’d need to write off the entire projection system to give the Pirates a chance.
In this case, you’d be writing off four different projections that all say the same thing — the Pirates barely have a chance at making the playoffs. This weekend’s series was pretty much the nail in the coffin. It might have been different if they swept the Cubs, but that didn’t happen. Now they need a big surge just to join the mix of four teams who are fighting for one final playoff spot.
That’s not the type of situation where you buy. It’s the type of situation where you either reload for next year, or start a rebuild to get stronger in the future. I don’t think the latter will happen, but the former almost certainly needs to happen at the least.
Last week I wrote that the Pirates have a decision to make. I don’t think there’s a decision to make anymore.
Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 8-3 to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon. They now travel to St Louis for a three-game series. In the series opener, the Pirates will send out Joe Musgrove for his 19th start. In his last outing before the All-Star break, he gave up three runs over six innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. He faced the Cardinals back on May 9th and allowed eight runs over three innings. Musgrove has a 3.67 ERA in road games this season. The Cardinals will counter with right-hander Miles Mikolas, who has a 4.53 ERA in 99.1 innings, with 75 strikeouts and a 1.26 WHIP. In his last start, he allowed four runs over four innings in a loss to the San Francisco Giants. He has faced the Pirates twice already this season, allowing three runs over five innings in April, and two runs over seven innings in May. Mikolas has a 2.48 ERA at home and 7.40 on the road.
The minor league schedule includes a bunch of teams not listing starters, so there could be some mistakes below. Indianapolis will send out Cam Vieaux for his ninth start in Triple-A. He hasn’t been able to get through five innings in any of his last three outings, more due to high pitch counts, rather than runs allowed (eight in 13.1 innings). Altoona should be sending out Pedro Vasquez, who made his last appearance on Wednesday during the Eastern League All-Star game. His last start was his worst Double-A start in quite some time, allowing four runs over six innings. Alex Manasa will get the start for Greensboro. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in a start this season. Manasa allowed 4+ runs in five of his 15 starts last year.
Morgantown doesn’t have a starter listed, but it should be Jesus Valles making his sixth start. He has just one walk and four strikeouts in his last three starts combined. Bristol is sending out Jose Maldonado, who has given up two runs and six hits over his last three starts combined. Finally, down in the GCL, first round pick Quinn Priester should be making his third pro start. He allowed one run over four innings in his last start. Priester has seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings. Bradenton has off today.
MLB: Pittsburgh (44-48) @ St Louis (46-45) 8:15 PM
Probable starter: Joe Musgrove (4.15 ERA, 83:23 SO/BB, 99.2 IP)
AAA: Indianapolis (47-45) vs Syracuse (45-48) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Cam Vieaux (4.58 ERA, 38:25 SO/BB, 39.1 IP)
AA: Altoona (49-40) vs Trenton (48-41) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Pedro Vasquez (2.58 ERA, 65:13 SO/BB, 80.1 IP)
High-A: Bradenton (49-43) vs Clearwater (50-43) 6:30 PM 7/16 (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD
Low-A: Greensboro (57-35) vs Hagerstown (39-54) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Alex Manasa (3.07 ERA, 77:20 SO/BB, 93.2 IP)
Short-Season A: Morgantown (15-14) @ Brooklyn (16-13) 11:30 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jesus Valles (5.56 ERA, 8:6 SO/BB, 22.1 IP)
Rookie: Bristol (12-13) @ Pulaski (15-9) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Jose Maldonado (2.70 ERA, 15:6 SO/BB, 16.2 IP)
GCL: Pirates (7-9) vs Braves (4-9) 12:00 PM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates1 (18-18) vs Cubs1 (17-19) 10:30 AM (season preview)
DSL: Pirates2 (30-6) vs Colorado (17-19) 10:30 AM (season preview)
From Indianapolis on Saturday, Pablo Reyes hits his first of two home runs
— Indianapolis Indians (@indyindians) July 14, 2019
Jerrick Suiter hits his fourth home run of the season for Altoona
SUIT 🆙@jerricksuiter swats his fourth homer to put us back on top!
— Altoona Curve (@AltoonaCurve) July 14, 2019
7/13: Ryan Valdes activated from Bradenton injured list. Raul Siri placed on injured list.
7/13: Keone Kela assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.
7/12: Blake Weiman placed on Indianapolis injured list.
7/11: Fernando Villegas assigned to Bristol.
7/11: Eric Wood placed on Indianapolis injured list.
7/10: Pirates release Roger Santana.
7/9: Pirates sign Tsung-Che Cheng
7/9: Pirates sign Deion Walker
7/9: Brendt Citta promoted to Morgantown. Luke Mangieri promoted to Greensboro. Ryan Peurifoy released.
7/8: Trevor Williams reinstated from paternity list. Kevin Kramer optioned to Indianapolis.
7/8: Pirates release Nick Garland and Mason Fishback
7/7: Mason Martin promoted to Bradenton.
7/7: Braeden Ogle and Logan Stoelke placed on injured list. Matt Eardensohn added to Bradenton roster.
7/7: Pirates recall Kevin Kramer. Montana DuRapau optioned to Indianapolis.
7/6: Pirates recall Dario Agrazal, Luis Escobar and Montana DuRapau. Steven Brault place on injured list. Trevor Williams placed on paternity leave. Dovydas Neverauskas optioned to Indianapolis.
7/6: Jake Brentz added to Indianapolis roster.
7/5: Bralin Jackson placed on Altoona injured list.
THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY
Five former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including Donn Clendenon, who played first base for the Pirates from 1961 until 1968. After seeing limited September time his first year, he finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 1962. Between the 1965-66 seasons, he drove in 194 runs. The Pirates lost him to the Montreal Expos in the 1968 expansion draft. In his time in Pittsburgh, he hit .280 with 106 homers. In 1969, he picked up a World Series ring with the New York Mets.
Other former players born on this date include Anthony Claggett, who pitched one game with the Pirates on October 3, 2009. Enrique Romo, who was a reliever for the Pirates from 1979 until 1982. During that 1979 season, he pitched 84 times and had a 2.99 ERA in 129.1 innings. The next year he made 74 appearances and threw a total of 123.2 innings.
We also have 1966 center fielder Don Bosch and 1925-26 pitcher Red Oldham, who pitched one of the more important innings in franchise history. After the Pirates took a 9-7 lead in the bottom of the eighth in game seven of the 1925 World Series, Oldham was called in to close out the game. The Pirates trailed 7-6 going into the eighth and scored three runs off Walter Johnson. Oldham picked up the final three outs, striking out two future Hall of Famers, Goose Goslin and Sam Rice.