First Pitch: And Now We Focus on the Many Areas Where the Pirates Can Improve

Last week I started my recap of the Pittsburgh Pirates, with the goal of a complete breakdown of the organization by the time the offseason really kicks in. To recap, here were the articles:

First Pitch: Where Do I Start?

First Pitch: How About This — The Impact of the Pirates’ Injuries

First Pitch: Or Maybe We Look at the Problem of the Pirates Underperforming

First Pitch: Because That Has Been a Big Issue For the Pirates, And That Wasn’t Always The Case

First Pitch: Why Does Neal Huntington Still Have a Job?

The summary of the above articles: There’s so much wrong with this organization right now, and the firing of Clint Hurdle, Ray Searage, and Tom Prince isn’t going to be enough to right the ship.

The Pirates did have injury issues, but even without those issues, they weren’t going to be a winning team. That’s due to underperformance, which has been an issue each year since 2016. This wasn’t an issue in 2013-15, with the Pirates often seeing players outperform their projections.

This ultimately can justify the firing of Hurdle, Searage, and Prince, but at the same time, Neal Huntington should be removed from his role for overseeing this downturn of the franchise, especially in a time where so many recently traded players are thriving elsewhere.

That’s the quick summary of the front office and personnel decisions, as well as the overall look of the team’s problems.

I’m changing course for the next few weeks. It’s a long offseason, and there’s plenty of time to discuss how the Pirates need to fire more people, how Bob Nutting needs to spend more money, and so on. But the ultimate focus, no matter who is running things or how much money is being spent, is to look at the team, the players at each position, and the possible areas to upgrade the team.

I’m going to be starting that process today, recapping every position from 2019, and setting up a look at where the Pirates can improve in 2020. The good news is that I don’t think we’ll have a shortage of options.

I’ll get back to reviewing the organization as a whole in my First Pitch articles once I’ve finished recapping each position.

We’ll also be wrapping up our minor league recaps this week, looking at Indianapolis, plus our Player, Pitcher, and Breakout prospect of the year.




By John Dreker

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates born on this date and we start with the one who went on to make the Hall of Fame.

Chuck Klein, outfielder for the 1939 Pirates. Klein spent most of his 17 seasons in the majors with the Philadelphia Phillies. He joined the Pirates mid-season in 1939 and hit .300 over 85 games, with 11 homers and 47 RBIs. By 1940, he was back with the Phillies. He was the NL MVP in 1932 and then backed that performance up with a Triple Crown the following year. When the Pirates signed Klein, he replaced outfielder Heinie Manush, who also made the Hall of Fame.

Fred Fussell, lefty pitcher for the 1928-29 Pirates. He was used mainly as a starter in his first season, then switched mainly to relief in 1929. In 199.1 innings with the Pirates, he had a 10-11 record, along with a 4.61 ERA. His only other big league experience was with the 1922-23 Chicago Cubs.

Adam DeBus, infielder for the 1917 Pirates. He joined the team mid-season and batted .229 over 38 games. That was his only big league experience. He then enlisted in the military during WWI and never played pro ball again.

Brickyard Kennedy, pitcher for the 1903 Pirates. In 12 seasons in the majors, he won 187 games. The last nine wins came with the Pirates during their first World Series season. He started and lost game five of the WS. Kennedy got his nickname from the job he held prior to signing pro ball. After playing with the Pirates, he spent the next five seasons in the minors.

On this date in 1972, the Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the opening game of the 1972 NLCS. Steve Blass started and allowed one run over 8.1 innings, while Al Oliver tripled and homered, driving in three runs. Rennie Stennett had two hits and two runs scored. Willie Stargell hit an RBI double in the first inning that put the Pirates up 2-1 at the time. The only run Blass allowed was a first inning homer by Joe Morgan.