Pittsburgh’s No Good, Very Bad Offense

As I sit in my living room watching the 2nd game of a doubleheader between the Rockies and Pirates, I’m left to think, where has all the offense gone? Seriously, the Pirates score less frequently than a high school nerd with a bad haircut. It also makes me wonder whether the trend of teams scoring less and less is just being carried out to the extreme in the Steel City, or if the Pirates are just simply a case of poor management putting together a lousy roster. Honestly, its probably a little of both, and I am starting to get to the point where I am genuinely surprised when Pittsburgh is hitting and the ball leaves the infield.

In the 1st game of the doubleheader, the Rockies won 2-1, despite mustering only 3 hits, one of which was an infield single. The Pirates put up 9 hits, with their lone run on a solo shot by Pedro Alvarez. In the 2nd game between Colorado and Pittsburgh, the 4th inning has just completed and only 5 more hits have been put up on the board, with neither team scoring a run. If Pittsburgh and Colorado continue to hit this anemically, the Pirates will set a new, interesting, and maybe dubious Major League record.

The Pirates have started the young season out by playing mediocre 7-10 baseball. The pitching staff has been excellent, ranking 2nd in baseball in runs allowed, just a hair behind Washington’s. In the 1st game of the doubleheader, James McDonald took a no-hitter into the 7th inning, where it was broken up on an infield hit. McDonald pitched excellently, striking out 8 batters in 7 innings, only allowing the 1 measly hit and scattering 3 walks. But as the story of Pittsburgh season has gone, he would not factor in the decision, because his own offense was in the middle of stabbing him in the back. The Pirates would score a run, immediately concede another after watching Eric Young Jr. run wild, and go on to lose 2-1.  Pittsburgh even had their chances but made 3 outs running the bases, with 2 of those being caught stealings. The Pirates really never threatened to hit the ball hard, outside of Alvarez’s homer, with 3 infield singles out of their 9 total hits. It was another typical game in an interesting season for Pittsburgh.

Lets look at some amazing facts:

-Pittsburgh has now scored 36 runs in 17 games, for a measly average of 2.1 runs per game. The worst offense ever in the Wild Card era was the 2010 Seattle Mariners, who averaged a full run more per game than the Pirates currently do. Seattle scored a paltry 513 runs and lost 101 games. If Pittsburgh continues with this woeful offensive production, they stand a good chance to be worse than the 2010 Mariners.

-In today’s game, the Pirates batted Pedro Alvarez sixth and Clint Barmes seventh. Alvarez is the definition of a black hole hitting a puny .122 after his homerun in today’s game. He now has 4 hits on the season in 42 at-bats, with the only good news being that 3 of the hits have left the park. Not to be outdone, Barmes is hitting an atrocious .154 in 57 at-bats and is due 5 million this year and next.

-The Pirates rank last in the National League in runs, hits, walks drawn, on-base percentage, slugging, and total bases. Pittsburgh ranks 2nd to last in batting average and homeruns as well.

-The Pirates are 1st in baseball in one offensive category: infield hits. By racking up 3 more today, the Pirates now have 21 on the year, 3 more than the Houston Astros.

-They only have 1 remotely productive hitter on the team in Andrew McCutchen, who may already be regretting inking a 6-year deal. McCutchen is hitting .333 and is single handedly keeping the Pirates above the Mendoza line (Pittsburgh’s team average is .211). If you take McCutchen’s contributions out of the lineup, the rest of the lineup is only hitting for a combined .193!!

-Where you wondering about that interesting/dubious record I was talking about? Well if the 2nd game of the doubleheader between against the Rockies plays out similarly to the 1st, and we end up with a low scoring game, Pittsburgh will set a record for most consecutive games played without either team scoring more than 5 runs.

-So who’s record did the Buccos tie in the early game today? That would be the 1943 Detroit Tigers, who played during World War II, when run scoring was way down throughout the league, because many of the best hitters left to fight fascism.

-The pitching rotation has done a standup job, despite the offense, carrying the Pirates by ranking 2nd in baseball in runs allowed. After this afternoon’s game, the Pirates now allow a hair under 3 runs per game, an outstanding number.

So, do the Pirates have any chances of turning this around, or are they going to become the low point for offensive baseball in the Wild Card era?

Unless a major midseason overhaul takes place, Pittsburgh’s offense will almost assuredly finish in the bottom 3 of baseball, which is a near guarantee to finish with a losing record. Its possible to finish around .500 with lousy offense and great pitching (see San Francisco:2011), but the Pirates just don’t have that caliber of pitching, even if Bedard and Burnett continue to rebound nicely from moving out of the AL East. On offense, Andrew McCutchen is one of the most talented, hard-working players in the game but, outside of maybe 1 other player, none of the Pirates would be starting for any of the other 29 Major League teams. Both Alvarez and Tabata have failed to live up to the early promise they showed, Barmes never has been even a contributing player on a winning team, and only Neil Walker appears capable of stepping up to help McCutchen get Pittsburgh to .500. The rest of the offense is going nowhere and will have to be overhauled before the Buccos see better days.

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3 comments

  1. David Hruska

    Agreed, although they have kind of done it to themselves. Until resigning McCutchen, all of their good players had either been traded or PIT failed to resign them, letting them walk as free agents, dating back to Bonds. And for most of the past 15 years, they have been one of the lowest 3-5 teams in payroll, which makes it tough to compete. They finally changed their approach last year, and upped their spending on the draft and scouting abroad. Hopefully they are able to develop the young talent they are scouting, and can finally end this 20 year streak sooner rather than later.

  2. Pingback: 2nd Half Questions « TheCutoffMan

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