Everyone knows that the Pirates’ offense has been bad in 2012. At one point, they were on pace for a historically bad offense, and were dead last in just about every offensive category. And while the offense has picked up slightly over the past week or two, it’s still not providing enough runs for the pitching staff on a night-in-night-out basis.
Naturally, fans want improvement now. They don’t want to wait until the trade deadline to improve the offense, it has to be done now. There’s two things wrong with this mindset. First, the only real trade bait the Pirates have is pitching, specifically Joel Hanrahan and possibly a few minor league prospects (NOT Jameson Taillon or Gerrit Cole, obviously). Let’s say the Pirates were actively shopping Hanrahan. What’s the most any team would give up for Hanny in late May/early June. Not much, at least not a Major League-bat that fans seem to think the lineup is missing. Hammer’s trade stock will be much higher in late July, when teams will be desperate for another arm in the back of their bullpen, and they’ll grossly overpay for him. There’s absolutely no reason for NH to make any rash trades that will end backfiring later in the season.
The second reason that begging for a trade doesn’t make sense is that the answer to the offensive problems won’t come from outside the organization. Look at 2011. At the trade deadline last year, the Pirates were 54-52, and just 3.5 games back of first place. Neal Huntington’s move was to trade for Derrek Lee and Ryan Ludwick, two guys who were solid career hitters and were expected to help the team make a run at the division. What happened next? Lee was hot for a few games, and then got hurt, while Ludwick did absolutely nothing and also ended up on the DL. The Pirates went on to finish 72-90, and although they got Lee and Ludwick for pretty cheap, they didn’t help the team at all. 2012 has been almost the exact same story as 2011 so far. The pitching has been great, and is keeping the team afloat in the division, while the offense struggles to score enough runs to win games. As of today, May 30th, the Pirates have played 49 games and have scored 145 runs, for an average of just under 3 runs per game. The team batting average is .219, and would be last in just about every category if it weren’t for the A’s. The main point here is that for the offense to hit well enough to make a run at the postseason, the guys within the organization have to step up. Pedro needs to step up and become the cleanup hitter that he can be, Tabata needs to be getting on base more often, and the bench guys have to come through when they get the chance late in games. Triple-A players like Matt Hague and Jordy Mercer need to take advantage of their promotions and produce runs when they get the chance. It won’t take much. There have been countless situations where there’s runners in scoring position with less than two outs, which should be easy RBIs. Time and time again though the Pirates leave these guys on base, and end up losing the game by a run or two. The pitching staff has been so unbelievably good this year that even scoring 3 runs in a game means that there’s a solid chance the Bucs will win. The current 25 players plus the handful of others who spend time with the Pirates and AAA Indy are enough to make this a winning team if the offense hit even half as well as it could.
Just to give an example how little trading for a “bat” will help, look at Paul Konerko. He’s currently leading the league with a .381 batting average, that’s 67 hits in 176 at-bats. The Pirates are 345/1576, good for a .219 average. If you add Konerko to the team, the collective batting average would be .235, which would be the fifth worst in the league. So yeah, not even adding the best hitting in the game right now would magically improve the offense. It has to come from the guys the Pirates already have.