Story and video by Rob Biertempfel/Photo by Gerry Images
Not so fast.
The folks at Baseball Prospectus compiled their oppRPA+ standings, which gauges every team’s strength of schedule to this point in the season. The Pirates’ slate has a oppRPA+ of 105.6, meaning it’s been the toughest in the majors ahead of the Giants (105.2), Royals (104.0), Blue Jays (103.7) and Tigers (102.9).
Eno Sarris, writing for Fangraphs, said the strong test early in the season could help the Pirates later this summer. He noted they have “only” 13 games left against the Cubs and that there are encouraging signs of improvement from Tyler Glasnow. If the schedule gets easier from here, and if Starling Marte is himself (or reasonably close to it) when he rejoins the team, and if Jung Ho Kang ever digs a tunnel out of South Korea (I know it would have to be really deep to go under the Pacific Ocean, but bear with me, OK?) then maybe the Pirates have a shot to do something this year after all.
>>> UPDATE 10:42 a.m. – Gregory Polanco was activated off the 10 -day DL, but is not in the lineup today. Danny Ortiz was optioned back to Triple-A Indy. … Jameson Taillon (testicular cancer) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session this morning, his second such post-surgery workout. “This was more of a competition bullpen,” Taillon said. “I’m tired, but it’s all good.” Bullpen coach Euclides Rojas simulated at batter (without actually holding a bat) while Taillon threw. “I think I struck out Euky a couple of times,” Taillon said with a grin.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 25, 2017
>>> Andrew McCutchen is benched today for the second game in a row. Yesterday, he said, without getting into too much detail (well, actually, without getting into any detail) that a big part of his problem at the plate is his upper body is too rotational. After last night’s win (in which McCutchen singled and struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seven-run 10th inning), manager Clint Hurdle said he’s not going to discuss McCutchen’s struggles with reporters and told McCutchen to do the same.
Before the game, Hurdle was asked if McCutchen is being hindered by “hard luck,” as indicated by a career-worst .220 BAbip (the league average is .298). “Hard luck plays a way in life,” Hurdle replied. “There is no rule that if you hit a ball hard you get a hit. If you want to hit .300, you’ve got to hit a lot of balls hard. We all get that. So, yeah, it plays a role on hard contact and how it plays out. We’ve got numbers for that. You guys can crunch them and throw them out there. However, there comes a point in time, too, when it’s overall quality of at-bat, the consistency of the at-bat. It’s hard for Andrew right now, so we have to find a way to help him.”
There is more than just bad luck working against McCutchen. His bat speed has declined from 62.1 mph in 2015 to 61.2 mph last year to 59.6 this year. When the bat slows down, exit velocity drops. More softly hit balls usually equate to a lower BAbip. Will mechanical adjustments to his rotation help generate more bat speed? McCutchen isn’t saying, so we’ll have to watch and see over the next few weeks.
Where would you bat Andrew McCutchen in the #Pirates lineup?
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) May 24, 2017
>>> Josh Collmenter was DFA’d this morning by the Braves. Last night, he gave up seven runs — including consecutive homers by David Freese, Jose Osuna and Jordy Mercer — in the 10th inning. RHP Matt Wisler was recalled from Triple-A.
Back-to-back-to-back JACKS! pic.twitter.com/sPPCNntPTi
— Pirates (@Pirates) May 25, 2017
>>> Yinz want links? I’ve got links:
Pirates 12, Braves 7: Adam Frazier might never make another out the rest of his career.
Notebook: In which McCutchen sits, Polanco runs, Bastardo pitches and alarms go off.
>>> Thursday: Pirates at Braves, 12:10 p.m. SunTrust Park, Atlanta. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM
Pirates: Adam Frazier 8, Josh Harrison 7, Josh Bell 3, David Freese 5, Francisco Cervelli 2, Jose Osuna 9, Jordy Mercer 6, Gift Ngoepe 4, RHP Ivan Nova (4-3, 2.63) 1
Braves: Ender Inciarte 8, Dansby Swanson 6, Nick Markakis 9, Matt Kemp 7, Matt Adams 3, Kurt Suzuki 2, Rio Ruiz 5, Jace Peterson 4, RHP Bartolo Colón (2-4, 6.28) 1
Gamecast: Colon, a 20-year veteran, turned 44 on Wednesday. He has 235 career wins and needs nine more to pass Juan Marichal as the winningest pitcher ever from the Dominican Republic. … Over his first three games since being acquired by the Braves, 1B Matt Adams went 5 for 13 (.385) with two homers and four RBI. … After Kurt Suzuki went 3 for 4 on Tuesday, Braves catchers were hitting a combined .320, the top mark in the majors. Their .427 OBP also was best in MLB. … Josh Harrison notched his 600th career hit on Wednesday.
>>> Friday: Mets at Pirates, 7:05 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM
Mets: RHP Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74) Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-4, 5.85)
>>> Saturday: Mets at Pirates, 7:15 p.m., PNC Park. TV: Fox. Radio: 93.7 FM
Mets: TBA Pirates: RHP Gerrit Cole (2-5, 3.36) Note: LHP Tommy Milone (1-2, 7.91) was slated to start, but on Wednesday was placed on the DL.
>>> Sunday: Mets at Pirates, 8 p.m., PNC Park. TV: ESPN. Radio: 93.7 FM
Mets: RHP Matt Harvey (3-3, 5.36) Pirates: RHP Tyler Glasnow (2-3, 6.69)
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.