Our Opening Day player countdown returns for a fourth year. Each post can be found under the Features category.
Tony Watson (44) days until Opening Day…
- Andrew McCutchen put on another show last night — 2-for-3, a double, a homer. He’s up to a sensational .321/.418/.552 line on the year; he’s hitting .351 with a 1.115 OPS since June 1st. Wow.
– Neil Walker saw his 12-game hitting streak come to an end last night. Neil in July: .306/.381/.528.
– Gregory Polanco is in the midst of a slump, going hitless over the last three games (13 at-bats). He’s slashing .277/.363/.364 through his first 30 MLB games.
– After going 0-for-4 on Friday, Josh Harrison is hitting just .241 with a .632 OPS since June 19th. He’ll get a night off on Saturday.
– An awful performance — rare for Tony Watson — doomed the Pirates in the eighth inning last night. He gave up five hits — as many as he allowed in his previous 10 appearances. He allowed three runs — as many as he had surrendered since April 19th (36 appearances). Just totally unlike what we’ve seen from the All-Star lefty this season.
Offense through 93 games:
|6||LF||Starling Marte (40-man)||83||339||40||79||16||4||5||32||21||.256||.324||.383||.708||100|
|Rank in 15 NL teams||5||5||14||8||4||3||3||1||4||4|
|3||SP||Gerrit Cole (15-day dl)||7||4||3.78||14||0||85.2||37||36||8||29||78||94||3.74||1.307||3.0||8.2|
|4||SP||Francisco Liriano* (15-day dl)||1||6||4.60||14||0||72.1||40||37||8||36||77||78||4.01||1.452||4.5||9.6|
|Rank in 15 NL teams||8||8||10||6||7||10||10||9||9||14|
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) July 6, 2014
— andrew mccutchen (@TheCUTCH22) July 6, 2014
— Josh Harrison (@jhay_da_man) July 6, 2014
– Watson is very deserving of the All-Star nod, writes Rob Biertempfel.
– In case you missed it, the Pirates claimed infielder Dean Anna off waivers from the Yankees on Saturday. He played a handful of games with the Evil Empire this season, his first taste of big league action. Anna’s hit .280/.380/.419 in his minor league career, mostly in the Padres’ system. Claiming him probably had something to do with …..
– … this: it was announced on Sunday morning that Clint Barmes had been placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a groin strain. He’s out 4-6 weeks. Michael Martinez is up for the time being, with Anna taking his place in the infield at Indy.
– The Bucs signed their 11th round pick, right-handed pitcher Gage Hinsz.
– FanGraphs has the Pirates’ playoff odds at 44.5%.
NL Central Standings:
Second Place Bucs!
NL Wild Card Standings:
Here come the Pirates …
On Tap This Week:
Monday @ St. Louis, 8:15 pm
Tuesday @ St. Louis, 8:15 pm
Wednesday @ St. Louis, 8:15 pm
Thursday @ St. Louis, 7:15 pm
Friday @ Cincinnati, 7:10 pm
Saturday @ Cincinnati, 7:15 pm
Sunday @ Cincinnati, 1:10 pm
Huge roadtrip before the All-Star break.
The Bucs are off today, meaning the next game they’ll play will be the first of July. Another month is in the books, and they’re officially more than halfway through the 2014 season.
I’ll be honest — this was a great month for the Pirates. They went 17-10 (.630), beating up on a lot of sub-.500 teams to get a winning record of their own. The Bucs closed out the month by winning seven of their last nine, and now sit just 1.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.
Here’s a look back at a lot of the good and some of the bad that went down in June…
Absurd. Just absurd. Cutch terrorized Major League pitchers this month, slashing .343/.410/.686 with 8 HR, 25 RBI, 19 runs, 5 stolen bases … monster numbers.
Can’t say enough good things about what he’s done since mid-May. The struggle is going to be finding a spot in the lineup for him. J-Hay hit .317 with an .823 OPS in June.
With Harrison’s emergence, one man hasn’t been given nearly enough credit, and that’s Pedro Alvarez. A lot of people are clamoring for Harrison to take Pedro’s spot at third base. Anyone notice that El Toro hit .299/.396/.483 in June? The power had been mostly absent, but he crushed a homer on Sunday (as well as a double) and could go off on one of his power streaks at any time. Give him a chance.
At long last, he arrived. The wunderkind made his MLB debut on June 10th, then notched his first big league homer three days later. He collected at least one hit in each of his first 11 games, and reached base in all of his first 14 contests. Though he’s slumped the last couple days (0 for his last 12), he’s still hitting .288 with a .749 OPS. He’s certainly been fun to watch so far.
The Rotation Depth
– Locke, 2.54 ERA in four starts
– Worley, 1.74 ERA in three starts
– Cumpton, 2.97 ERA in five starts
The Shark Tank Leaders
Melancon: 2.13 ERA, 9.2 K/9, 0.7 BB/9
Watson: 0.71 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 2.1 BB/9
Ike ranked among the “Best” in May — we said, “The newest Bucco looked like a new man in May, hitting .326/.408/.453. He gets on base a ton, and has shown a few glimpses of solid power.” Things went differently in June, as he hit just .183 with a .598 OPS.
The other half of the first base platoon also struggled, batting .211 with a .539 OPS in 40 plate appearances. He made just seven starts in June.
His last month as a Bucco, Grilli got absolutely pounded in 10 outings. Opponents hit .351/.442/.568 against him, scoring seven runs in 8.1 innings (7.56 ERA). The Bucs shipped him to the Angels for Ernesto Frieri on Friday.
A forgettable month for J. Wilson, who surrendered 9 runs in 10 innings. He also walked nine batters.
Neil Walker‘s Appendix
Decided to burst on June 9th. It opened the door for Gregory Polanco to debut and Josh Harrison to get playing time, but it sucked to see Neil go down when he was on a tear — had been hitting .319/.395/.474 in his previous 35 games before the injury.
Gerrit Cole‘s Shoulder
Cole had pieced together a few good outings in a row and was cruising against the Padres on June 3rd when his shoulder seemingly got sore. He hit the disabled list soon after, and while thankfully it wasn’t anything overly serious, it kept him off the mound for the next 25 days. Cole got roughed up for five runs in four innings in his return game against the Mets two days ago.
Francisco Liriano‘s Oblique
On the night of Polanco’s debut, yet another Pirate went down with an injury — Francisco Liriano. He hasn’t been nearly as effective in his second year as a Buc, though it hurts to lose him for such an extended period of time. Oblique injuries have historically kept pitchers out for a while, and it’s still unclear when exactly Liriano will be able to return.
The Rest of the Division
Good news: the Pirates played really well in June. Bad news: So did everyone else. Here’s how each NL Central team fared in June (through today):
Reds — 18-9 (.667)
Brewers — 18-10 (.643)
Pirates — 17-10 (.630)
Cardinals — 14-13 (.519)
Cubs — 14-13 (.519)
No other division had more than three of its teams over .500 for the month. NLC had all five playing winning baseball.
Gotta keep it up in July. Plenty of time left for the Pirates to make a move. Let’s see where they are in a month and go from there…
Five thoughts that could have formed separate posts but are better served as a group. Happy Friday.
For the past few years, the Pirates’ bench production was brutally bad. In 2012, they hit .176 as pinch-hitters, second-worst in the National League; last year, they hit .206, third-worst in the league.
Though most of the same players are back in 2014, the pinch-hitting production has been a pleasant surprise. Here’s how the team’s pinch hitters stack up against the National League:
The team that they rank second to in most rate stats is the Colorado Rockies.
They’ve helped create more runs and been more valuable (by WAR) than the rest of the NL. Individual honors go out to Gaby Sanchez (.375/.423/.708 off the bench), Travis Snider (.333/.438/.481), and Jose Tabata (.320/.357/.400). Greg Brown may or may not have started calling them the “Bench Monsters” last night…
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to watch a team with poor fundamentals. The Pirates have struggled in quite a few areas this year; their base running has been particularly atrocious recently.
If you’re on Twitter, you’re probably familiar with the term “TOOTBLAN” (thrown out on the bases like a nincompoop). The Pirates have been thrown out in such a manner more than any team in baseball. Such things are actually tracked, if you can believe that.
If you’ve watched a Pirate game this year, you can probably identify Starling Marte as the primary culprit. In fact, his 14 TOOTBLANs are by far the most in the league. A more accurate acronym for the future might be “TOOTBLAM” (thrown out on the bases like a Marte).
Tony Watson doesn’t get enough credit. His recent surge is gaining some attention though, and each appearance provides another reason to send him to the All-Star Game this summer.
Dating back to August 6th of last season, Watson has allowed just three earned runs in 52 appearances (0.53 ERA). He’s now recorded 21 consecutive scoreless outings, and this is just absurd:
Last hit allowed by Tony Watson. May 22nd against the Nationals. That was 3 weeks ago today.
— Hidden Vigorish (@piratesvigorish) June 13, 2014
Hovering around .500 and stricken with injuries, the Pirates are at a bit of a crossroads right now. Should they be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?
If they are looking to sell, teams would be wise to make a call on Russell Martin. A free agent in the offseason, Martin would be an excellent addition to any contender in need of an experienced catcher for the stretch run.
Thanks to a career high BABIP and walk rate, Martin is hitting .279 with a .413 on-base percentage in 2014. While you can expect those to fall back a bit, he’s been consistently giving the Pirates good at-bats — only Andrew McCutchen has averaged more pitches per plate appearance this season. And not to mention his immense value behind the dish, whether it be his ability to pull in extra strikes, those dazzling plays he makes on dribblers in front of the plate, or overall handling of the staff.
Coincidence or not, the Bucs are 11-4 in the 15 games that Martin has started since coming off the disabled list.
Overall this season: 18-13 in Martin starts … 14-21 in non-Martin starts.
The Pirates have a few things to figure out here. Can they re-sign him? Team president Frank Coonelly says their interest level is very high. If so, can they get it done now? Better for the team to extend him now than wait until the offseason. If they wait, do you hand him a qualifying offer? Don’t screw it up like the A.J. Burnett saga. If none of the above, he could be shopped at the end of July. I think it’s pretty obvious how meaningful Martin is to the Pirates’ lineup, but they also must proceed with caution with a backstop on the wrong side of 30.
Just when you thought he couldn’t get any better…
#Pirates Andrew McCutchen is batting .331/.435/.548 with 95 R, 43 2B, 7 3B, 24 HR, 91 RBI, & 21 SB over his last 162 games.
— MLB Play Index (@BRefPlayIndex) June 13, 2014
Over his last 145 games, #Pirates Andrew McCutchen has 100 walks to 99 strikeouts.
— MLB Play Index (@BRefPlayIndex) June 13, 2014
Cutch’s 177 wRC+ (meaning he’s created 77% more runs than league average) ranks 3rd in MLB, behind only Troy Tulowitzki and Yasiel Puig. He’s one of six qualified hitters who has drawn more walks than strikeouts in 2014.
He’s been off the charts in June, hitting .429 with a 1.571 OPS. Nine doubles and six homers in the last 11 games. Five consecutive multi-hit games. Just on a different level right now.
McCutchen has accumulated more WAR than those two by age 27, and keep in mind we’re not even halfway through this season.
Pirates start a three-game series in Miami tonight.