After three back to back post season appearances the Pittsburgh Pirates had a lot expectations going into this year, which they have not been living up to. The Pirates needed to atone for last years early exit in the playoffs to the Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card round. Star players are not performing like star players (Andrew McCutchen .239, Francisco Liriano 4-8 5.33) and the little bit of luck needed in a long baseball season have not been happening for them. The Pirates have not advanced to the next round in the post season since 2013. The most disappointing was the previously stated loss to the Cubs. Pitching has really let the Pirates down this year ranking in the bottom half of the league. Though they do rank 9th overall in the majors in hitting. The Pirates inability to combine both pitching and hitting has led to their below .500 record.
Though the season is not lost for the Pirates. Thanks to other teams struggles in the National League, Wild Card spots are wide open. The current leaders the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins have their issues and the Dodgers just lost Clayton Kershaw to the 15 day DL with a herniated disk. The Pirates are only 3.5 games back ahead of them the New York Mets (40-37) and the St. Louis Cardinals (40-37). The Cardinals are pretty solid overall and should start hitting their stride. As a team they are 9th in the MLB in pitching and 12th in hitting. The Mets have the 3rd ranked pitching staff in the majors led by Noah Syndergaard (8-3 2.49) struggles this year though rank dead last in hitting. If the Mets can find a bat or two before the all star break it’ll be tough for the Pirates to make up ground.
That’s not to say there have not been high points for the Pirates, sweeping the Dodgers last weekend was a great start to righting the ship. Especially since the Dodgers had been riding a 6 game winning streak having won 8 of 10. Notable players who have excelled this year are Starling Marte (.331 6 HR), Gregory Polanco (.299 10 HR) and Matt Joyce (.292 8HR). On the pitching side Mark Melancon ( 0-1 1.48 22 SV) has done an outstanding job shutting down games. The young Gerrit Cole with a small sample size of 12 games this year looks promising and is 5-4 with a 2.77 era.
If Pittsburgh keeps hitting the way they have been and get players like Liriano and McCutchen get back on track they’ll have a real shot at the Wild Card. Great offense is being wasted with bad pitching performances and have made it hard for the Pirates to get on a roll through the first half of the season. Look for them to try and add an extra bat (because you can’t ever have too many) and some help for their pitching staff. If the front office can make these additions the ol’ jolly roger may be raised come post season and they’ll have a good chance advancing in the playoffs.