SOUTH HILLS COMMAND CENTER – Even if the Pirates’ pitching staff continues its excellent work, the Pirates’ offense is really bringing into question whether there is going to be meaningful baseball played in Pittsburgh in September.
The Pirates’ OPS has dipped below .700, now resting at .675 (12th in the NL). The Pirates have a .299 on-base percentage as a team (12th in the NL).
Those are truly anemic numbers and it’s now nearly the middle of June. Even a slight dip in pitching performance could yield significant regression without offensive improvement.
There aren’t any impact bats in the upper-levels of the system riding over the ridge.
Gregory Polanco looks like an future impact back but he’s probably not ready until 2015. Stetson Allie might become Chris Davis … in 2018. Austin Meadows and Reese McGuire might be All-Stars … in 2019.
There are few internal options … so what to do?
STARTING NINE THOUGHTS …
9. The one clear alternative is to trade defense for offense at shortstop: play Jordy Mercer over Clint Barmes, as many of you have called for. Now, Mercer is not Manny Machado. Mercer has a 2% walk rate and a 23% K-rate. He’s a young player who is going to struggle some but he has more pop than Barmes.
Hurdle has begun to play Mercer more under the premise that it’s good for his development. It’s also about finding a way to jump start the offense.
8. I’d suggest Hurdle become more aggressive in taking advantage of platoons, but he’s already doing that at first base and and in right field. The Pirates simply need to get more out of the Travis Snider/Garrett Jones/Gaby Sanchez/Jose Tabata mix at the right-side corners.
7. The Pirates need Neil Walker’s bat to get going, ditto for Pedro Alvarez. Andrew McCutchen needs to find some better luck. (I think McCutchen is going to be just fine and produce a .300 avg and 25 HRs).
6.The Pirates simply need internal improvement. Almost every bat is performing below expectations. Jay Bell must find some answers.
5. The other avenue is the trade market.
I’m not sure what kind of impact bats, if any, are available at the moment. Andre Either and Adrian Gonzalez could be, but they’re on the decline. And the Pirates aren’t going to be trading their top young assets. Unless …
Jose Bautista in a Pirates jersey? It happened once, is there a 2.3% chance it could happen again?
4. You know what would be fun, this: If the Blue Jays continue to struggle Jameson Taillon for Jose Bautista + plus cash?
What club says no first? (Bautista has a fairly reasonable contract $14 in ’14, $14M in ’15 with an option for 2016).
3. It does bring me to the interesting question John Hart brought up in our discussion last week. Baseball has become a pitcher’s game. Hart noted how the Pirates have created a rotation on the cheap. PNC Park hides some pitching warts. Knowing that impact bats are growing sparse should they take the priority over arms early in the draft?
2. I think the Pirates did the right thing in taking Meadows and McGuire. I loved their first-round. But I just wonder even if Taillon becomes a more affable Josh Beckett if the Pirates are going to regret passing on Machado in 2010.
1. This is always a fun read: ESPN’s franchise player draft. What’s painful for #BUCN is the Pirates had a chance to draft the No. 3 and No. 4 overall picks. Imagine a lineup with Starling Marte, McCutchen, Machado and Buster Posey in it?
For what’s it worth, I’d go Bryce Harper at No. 1. I like Yoenis Cespedes, but that’s too high, and Stephen Strasburg‘s ranking is too low.
HE SAID IT
Indianapolis catcher Tony Sanchez on Gerrit Cole:
“I’ll go out there, and I’ll throw in some curse words and yell at him a little bit,” said Sanchez, who quickly finds it is Cole’s anger that is the problem. “I say, ‘Who cares? We’re in the fifth inning, there’s no score, there’s a runner on first, you have a 100 mph fastball. Give me that fastball, and we’ll get out of this.’ ”
MODEST PROPOSAL OF THE WEEK
When I watched Gerrit Cole’s start Wednesday a scout said Cole sometimes gets “too amped up.”
He can overthrow, lose command of his fastball and have it flatten out in the upper part of the strikezone. We wrote a whole store about Cole needing to stay in the moment, which is going to be awfully hard in a big league debut Tuesday. But my advice to him would be this: whatever you channeled, Gerrit, in your 2011 CWS start in TCU. Channel it again.
STAT THAT MIGHT ONLY INTEREST ME: 23
Jeff Locke’s strikeouts over his last four starts covering 21 1/3 innings.
Found some new tunes via Alt Nation on XM en route to Indy last week. Enjoy: