First Pitch: Bad Offense? This Pirates Offense Looks Pretty Great

All off-season, there has been talk that the Pirates will struggle on offense in 2016. Looking at this team, I have no clue where this talk is coming from.

Alright, I do have a clue. It involves Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker departing. It involves focusing way too much on home runs, and not enough on the total offensive package. And in each case, the thought that the Pirates will have a poor offense is ignoring a lot of the aspects that will lead to them having a good offense.

Last year, the Pirates were about middle of the pack for the entire season. They ranked 7th overall in the NL with a .313 wOBA, but third overall with a 99 wRC+. Those numbers were almost identical to the numbers the Cubs put up for the season, and many would consider the Cubs to have a great offense.

Looking at the second half, things get better. The Pirates moved up to fourth overall in wOBA with a .323 mark. They were also second in wRC+ with 107. The reason for these improvements? Andrew McCutchen broke out of his April slump, Jung-ho Kang became an everyday player, the bench got much better at the trade deadline, and Gregory Polanco showed some improvements.

Then when you look ahead to the 2016 season, you see that a lot of the things that were working in the second half last year should be working again for the Pirates in the upcoming season.

They’ve still got an MVP in Andrew McCutchen. Over the last three seasons, he has combined for the sixth best wOBA (.395) and fifth best wRC+ (157) in baseball.

Starling Marte might be one of the most under-rated players in the game, and is definitely under-rated in Pittsburgh. During the last three years, he ranks 48th in wOBA (.346) and 37th in wRC+ (124) out of 233 qualified players.

Then there’s Jung-ho Kang, who was just as good as Andrew McCutchen offensively in the second half last year. In fact, Kang was one of the best in baseball in the second half last year. He ranked 19th in wOBA (.392) and 15th in wRC+ (154) out of 186 qualified players with 200+ plate appearances during that span. Because of his lack of track record and his current rehab process, it’s hard to say whether he can repeat these numbers going forward. The rehab is looking good, and Kang could be ready by Opening Day. If he gets close to his 2015 performance, the Pirates will have three impact bats in the lineup. And we’re just getting started.

Jung-ho Kang running after fielding grounders. #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Next up is Francisco Cervelli, who had some great numbers from the catcher’s position last year. He posted a .341 wOBA and a 119 wRC+, which ranked third and second, respectively, out of 28 catchers with 300+ plate appearances. And it’s not like those numbers were a fluke. He had a .358 wOBA and a 130 wRC+ in 2014 with the Yankees, albeit in a smaller sample size. At this point, I think the odds of him staying healthy for another 500+ plate appearance season would be the bigger question than worrying about his offense. As for that question about health, it helps that the Pirates do a good job managing the workload with their players and keeping guys healthy.

Now I will point out here that the second half success last year was in part due to Pedro Alvarez, who had a .367 wOBA and a 137 wRC+. But it’s not like the guy they got to replace Alvarez is bad offensively. He’s just different. Alvarez has his success due to power and very little else. He’s your typical three true outcomes guy. Meanwhile, Jaso doesn’t have the same power, but gets on base a ton. Both are platoon guys, limited to right-handers. And in that comparison, Jaso beats out Alvarez in almost every overall offensive category, as seen in this career comparison. So the Pirates did lose a big home run hitter in Alvarez, but they actually upgraded their offense at first base against right-handers by adding Jaso.

The other half of the first base platoon includes Michael Morse and/or Jason Rogers. I said yesterday that I think both should be on the roster, giving the Pirates a strong offensive bench. Morse was a big reason the bench improved in the second half last year, and he and Rogers would continue what the Pirates had in those final two months.

Jordy Mercer is a defense-first shortstop, although he does have some good offensive stretches at times. The consistency isn’t there, which means he won’t cash in on being a strong offensive shortstop. But he’s not a no-bat guy either. In the last three years, out of 28 shortstops with 1000+ plate appearances, he ranked 17th in wOBA (.297) and 14th in wRC+ (90). So he’s generally about middle of the pack offensively at the shortstop position. This is a drop off from the other guys in the lineup, but not everyone will be a star, and you’d take Mercer’s numbers from shortstop when paired with his defense.

It’s hard to say what you’re going to get from Josh Harrison. Anyone expecting a repeat of his 2014 season, when he put up a .365 wOBA and 137 wRC+, are probably being way too optimistic. That said, I could see him doing better than his 2015 totals of .313/100. He’s another guy who did well in the second half, hitting for a .340 wOBA and a 119 wRC+, which is about the mid-point of his 2014 and 2015 numbers. There might be an offensive drop off here from Walker to Harrison, but I don’t think it’s significant enough to turn the Pirates into a bad offense.

Finally, there’s Gregory Polanco, who has tons of upside, but hasn’t quite put it together in the majors yet. Polanco did show improvements in the second half, and was unlucky last year with a lot of hard hit balls that went right to fielders for outs. I’ve written this off-season about how I think he will be the most important member of the offense, mostly because any improvements from him could make up for drops in production at other positions — whether that’s a drop off from Walker to Harrison, or an injury to Cervelli, or Kang seeing a drop in his production after his injury. Polanco provides the biggest opportunity for an increase at an individual position, and as a long-time Polanco believer who was encouraged with the second half numbers last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a big increase this year.

I don’t look at this offense and see a bad offense. I look at this group and see an MVP. I see a very underrated hitter in Starling Marte, and another huge impact bat in Jung-ho Kang — assuming he returns healthy and close to his 2015 production. I see a really good offensive catcher in Francisco Cervelli. There’s a quietly great first base option in John Jaso, and two strong bats from the right side who should also improve the bench. Jordy Mercer and Josh Harrison aren’t impact guys, and probably won’t be at the top of their positions like Cervelli, but they’re not going to be liabilities. And finally, Gregory Polanco is still a breakout candidate, and a breakout from him would put this offense over the top, or make up for any shortcomings from the previous group.

This isn’t a bad offense. In fact, it could end up being one of the best groups in the National League, just like how they finished the 2015 season.

**The Pirates Prospects App is Now Available on Android. If you missed it from this weekend, our app is now available on Android. The iOS version for Apple devices will be out in the next week.

**John Jaso Gets In-Depth About His Transition to First Base. I really liked this interview and all of the detailed responses Jaso gave about the move to first base from catching.

**Nick Kingham is on the Pirates’ Conservative Path Back From Tommy John. A look at where Kingham’s rehab is at, and when you might expect him back in real games.

**Pirates Top Ten Prospects From Baseball Prospectus. The latest prospect rankings, with another high-ranking for Kevin Newman, and a high-ranking for Mitch Keller.

**David Todd Podcast: Pirates Off-Season, Kang’s Health, Taillon, Glasnow, Rankings. Podcast of my interview with David Todd on Wednesday, looking at a lot of early Spring Training topics.

  • Great article as always, Tim. I don’t know of anty other writer in this city’s media reach that is really taking the time to dig this far into what the front office may be thinking in how they build the team. It seems like they have had a system wide approach to building and developing a pitching staff for a while, but it is only recently that I have noticed an organization wide commitment to build building an offense.

  • I appreciate the optimism Tim and I hope you are right. As you detail above, everybody has to come through, improve AND stay healthy for the offense to be “great.”
    I just don’t see it all breaking our way. We lost three guys who made the All-Star game because of their bats and power production….Ramirez, Walker and Alvarez. Another key guy has questions surrounding his recovery…Kang. Cutch may lead the league in walks if a couple of these guys regress and others like Polanco and Marte don’t get better.
    But, with the opening of camp….hope springs eternal.

    • “As you detail above, everybody has to come through, improve AND stay healthy for the offense to be “great.””

      I’m not saying that at all. I don’t think everything needs to go right and everyone needs to improve for this offense to be one of the top offenses in the NL.

      • Ok….. I appreciate the willingness to engage and respond.
        The headline reads…..”This Pirates Offense Looks Pretty Great”
        In my mind all three outfielders have to stay healthy. You project a better year from Polanco and no regression from Cutch. Both have had knee issues. Marte has to get more consistent. Cervelli has to repeat. Harrison has to repeat 2014. Mercer can’t wait until July to hit his weight. Kang has to fully recover from a traumatic knee injury. Jaso has to come through in a big way to be a net improvement over Pedro. By that I mean he has to be a competent first baseman and retain a good on base percentage. We weren’t one of the top offenses last year…we were middle of the pack.
        Let’s pick just three positions…Harrison comes nowhere near his 2014 performance, Mercer bats 200 into July, Kang is treated with care and has a slow start. I will give you outfield health and Polanco improvement. Even Jaso being a plus. Even a Cervelli repeat. How are we one of the top offenses in the NL?

        • A lot to unpack here.

          Outfielders staying healthy: This is a disclaimer for every team in baseball.

          Polanco/Cutch knees: They had knee issues. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to have knee issues going forward. Both were taken care of. Cutch was fine after the start of last season.

          Marte: His numbers have been pretty consistent the last three years, whether you want to look at advanced metrics or his triple slash line.

          Cervelli: Repeating will be a question here, but I don’t think it’s a big question, since he had the same numbers with NY the year before.

          Harrison: I didn’t write that he needs to repeat 2014. I don’t think that’s possible. I think he can do something between his 2014 and 2015 seasons.

          Mercer: I wrote that he’s defense first, so the article isn’t relying on him to provide the offense.

          Jaso: You’re combining his offense and defense here. His offense is fine and has no questions. His defense has questions, but nothing to do with the offense. As noted, his offense vs RHP has been better than Pedro. And it would be difficult for him to be bad enough defensively to be a net downgrade over Pedro.

          Kang: Also a concern as to whether he can recover, although he’s looking great so far.

          The biggest question marks I put out there in the article were Kang’s health, and whether Cervelli could remain healthy. The only other real question is whether Polanco could break out. Beyond that, any risk involved is the same as any other team — will non-injury prone guys stay healthy, and will they perform to the career norms? You can’t discount that for one team without doing that for every team.

          • “Repeating will be a question here, but I don’t think it’s a big question, since he had the same numbers with NY the year before.”

            Can you name *one* player who carried ~.350 BABIP’s into his 30s? Betting on BABIP for hitters like Cervelli is a trap. He *will* regress significantly, the question is only when.

            “You can’t discount that for one team without doing that for every team.”

            Which is where the extreme lack of depth will eventually hurt the Pirates. We cannot credit Huntington for the superb job he did building depth last year without acknowledging this current squad has nothing of the sort.

            • That’s not the only question. The more important question is how much? Maybe he doesn’t put up a .351 BABIP. But his offense as a catcher would be good with a .340 BABIP (his career numbers) or even a bit lower than that. He’s not dropping from .350 to .300.

              Do they have an extreme lack of depth though? They have a lot of prospects in Triple-A ready to make the jump to the majors. They’ve got depth. If anything, they just have unproven depth.

              • Regressing Cervelli’s BABIP down to even the 320-330 range leaves him a league-average hitter. That, of course, is good for a catcher but still represents significantly less offense than he provided the team last year.

                Those are real runs they’ll be losing.

                And yes, they absolutely do have an extreme lack of depth. Ok, maybe *extreme* is too strong…I’m sure the Braves and Phillies and Brewers have less…but their bench is extremely light and counting on prospects to provide immediate help is foolish.

                • But who says it will drop that far? His career is .341. And even if you use the “after 30” argument, he’ll be 30 this year. It seems extreme to say he’ll fall 10-20 points below his career numbers one year after he exceeded those numbers.

                  Your argument makes sense if we’re talking about a Cervelli extension and expecting the career numbers for the duration. But in 2016, I don’t see this massive drop off as a risk.

                  As for the depth, we can agree to disagree for now. I’ve got that depth series I did from last year coming up, so we’ll revisit it then.

                  • “But who says it will drop that far?”

                    Both leading projection systems and every xBABIP calculator I’ve used. All the traits identified in Starling Marte that lead to sustainable elite BABIP (>.340) – high LD%, good exit velo/hard hit%, plus speed – Cervelli doesn’t really share. Simply above average line drive rate last year, mediocre exit velocity, and low infield hit rate.

                    The more interesting question is how in the hell is he putting up BABIPs like this!

                    I don’t claim to know the answer to this, but how reliable is his combined Yankee BABIP when it consists of seven small samples? Such a rare thing to happen. Only once did he get more than 150 PA as a Yankee, and in that one season his BABIP was merely above average at .316.

                    If Marte himself can see 30-40 point BABIP fluctuations twice in four years while in his prime, you bet Cervelli can too.

                    Thanks for the conversation, Tim!

                    • ZiPS has him with a .321 wOBA this year, which would have put him 10th out of 28 catchers with 300+ PA last year.

                      I don’t know if Steamer is the other projection system you use, but they’ve got him at a .315 wOBA, which would have ranked 11th last year.

                      So even with those drops, he’s still in the top third offensively for catchers.

                    • Yep, my point exactly. I’ll take that from the catcher position and be happy, but it still represents a rather significant drop from the .341 wOBA he posted last year. In the context of this discussion on overall team offense year-to-year, that drop represents real runs that’ll need to be made up somewhere.

          • Nothing I would enjoy more than a top tier offense. I did not handle well Pedro’s SO’s. But I do not see producers lined up to bat 4th and 5th behind Cutch. Can we depend on Kang to bat cleanup to start the season? I do not see a productive super utility player on the roster yet, or a 4th outfielder. I realize you hate the RBI statistic, but a lot of them departed with Walker, Ramirez and Alvarez. Call it production then, but Kang, Jaso and Cervelli are going to have to provide it or this team will struggle.

            • RBIs are a product of where you bat in the order and the guys in front of you getting on base. The RBIs didn’t leave with Walker, Ramirez, and Alvarez. They’re still there for a good hitter, since they’ve still got good guys setting the table in front of them.

    • When was walker an all star?…

  • I feel the same way. I read an article the other day that predicted the Bucs lineup and with the exception of Mercer, I saw 7 guys who all are very capable of hitting .280+ with an OBP of .340+. This team may struggle to hit 100 homers but they are gonna hit a shit ton of doubles.

  • I’m not worried about our offense, but I wouldn’t say it is going to be “Pretty Great”.

    I am more worried about our Starting Pitching.

    • What does the first line even mean?

      • Does someone else write your ledes?

      • I am not sure of your question, Tim, but what EYE mean is that I think the offense may be pretty GOOD, but Great is a little bit of a stretch. (The ‘Great’ that was in your Headline)

        • You were saying you weren’t concerned with the offense, but then said you wouldn’t call them great. So I wasn’t sure what you were saying. Didn’t realize you were splitting hairs on subjective words.

          • There’s a big diff between good and great. Hardly subjective, my good man. And it has nothing to do with splitting hairs. 🙂

            ’27 Yanks were great.
            The Lumber Company was great.

            Nothing wrong with being ‘good’ but ‘great’?……..hardly.

            🙂

            • That’s where the subjectivity comes in. You’re saying the word “great” describes the best offenses of all time. I’m thinking of “great” as “they’ll be one of the best in the NL this year”.

              I don’t think I’d use “great” if I’m comparing them to the 27 Yankees or the Lumber Company. I’d probably say historic in that case.

  • Excellent write-up, and indicates the Pirates are a very good team going into 2016. I think that Harrison has the ability to equal the stats of Walker, I Like our chances to do better at 1B, and, as you have said, Polanco did do a lot better in the 2nd half of last season. I realize it is early in his career to place a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, but I think he has the capability to be a strong contributor as a mid-order hitter, especially against RHP’s.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    February 18, 2016 9:21 am

    I’m not worried about the offense…my biggest concerns with this team (as it stands today) are:
    (1) Starting rotation beyond the first two of Cole and Liriano – on his best day Niese, is not a very strong #3 – and what follows is even weaker.
    (2) Lack of a quality LH reliever not named Watson.
    (3) Infield defense – As it stands on paper now, I don’t see potential for significant improvement.

    • You gotta take the worst case scenario for both Harrison and Jaso to be the same as Walker and Pedro from last year in the field.

      • Why should we assume that? Pedro was historically bad at 1B, and we already know that JHay will be an improvement.

        I think it’s fair to look at worst case scenarios, but until Jaso shows us otherwise it’s probably fair to assume he’ll be an improvement.

      • why?.,..JHAY’s career UZR is in the plus range.

        • We agree, i was saying that the only way to be that worried about infield defense not being better is if you take the worst case for all members involved. Which isnt likely.

    • I am only worried about #1.

      IF defense should be better. JHay’s 2b defense, using UZR/150 has been in the plus range the last two years.

      • Agreed, having a second LH reliever isn’t a big concern because Hurdle wouldn’t use them as a traditional LOOGY anyways. Sure it’d be nice to have, but if there’s one area to give NH the benefit of the doubt, its the bullpen.

        • Couple honest question:

          Why did they prioritize two lefties in the pen from ’13-’15, but not in the rebuilding years?

          Can you name any other contender in recent memory that *hasn’t* had even one matchup lefty in the pen? I’m not talking LOOGY, but one guy that can be brought into a leverage situation to exploit a platoon advantage. The Pirates do not.

          • Cory Luebke and Eric O’Flaherty have been brought in to compete for that spot; so they may still want a situational lefty in the pen, it is just lower on the pecking order this year.

            • No, it’s completely missing from the pecking order.

              They have money left in the budget, and there have been/are still Major League arms available.

              If they cared at all about filling this spot as they have in the past then *something* would’ve been done by now.

      • You’re walking yourself into a trap if you consider an improvement over Pedro and Walker mission accomplished.

        With this pitching staff – and yes, lack of offense – simply being better than the worst defensive second baseman in the league and the worst defensive first baseman ever will not get the job done.

        • NMR…..Not really…In a vacuum, give me a 2bman with PLUS UZR and to me that is a good defender.

          As for first, YOU’D be better than Pedro….lol.

          • This is my exact point….you can’t settle on being better than Pedro, and 13 of the 18 qualified second basemen in the league last year had “PLUS UZR”.

            Your standards have been lowered.

  • Oy.

    I am more interested in this conversation vis-a-vis pitching and defense.
    I see this offense as creating more runs than last year because there are fewer easy outs.

    I’ve heard it said that if a team scores 4 or more runs, they generally win. It follows that if a team allows four or more they lose. The question is, regardless of how you view the Bucs offense this year, Will the Pirates’ run differential be better with a weaker rotation paired with a stronger bullpen and improved defense?

    Listen. If the Pirates math works out in the larger aggregate, either / both offensively and/ or defensively, the Pirates are going to win a lot of games.

    I think the Pirates’ brain trust has something figured out and I think you’ll see a performance greater than the sum of this team’s parts. Just a hunch. And I hope I’m right.

    -Wabbit

  • Tim,
    Even with the prospects available looking at the list of available free agents left is striking. It almost gives me the feeling of collusion, has anyone seen any analysis to see how this year compares to others at this point of the year?
    The other side of this would be the value of signing some of these guys to smaller deals because of the timeline here. Someone like a Jimmy Rollins might be interested in a one year deal back in PA. A Dominic Brown might be a nice bounceback guy as a potential 4th outfielder or Marlon Byrd? Another lefty to compete like a Matt Thornton or Parra?
    How about some more lottery tickets for the rotation here’s a few available names:
    Billingsly, Buerle, Harang, Johnson, Lincecum, Lohse, Masterson, Minor, Simon… seriously nobody see’s these guys as good competition for their rotations?

    How about cheap bats for the bench:
    Victorino, Delmon Young, Ricky Weeks, Uribe, Sizemore, Rios, Murphy, Morneau, McGehee, Joyce, A. Jackson, Freese…. to name a few…. wow. It just seems really odd IMO what the heck is going on???

    I know a few of these guys would look like some good insurance at apparently a low price… and that isn’t even mentioning El Toro. I’d still offer him a contract for 4 mil and take him back in a heartbeat at that $.

    • Since they’ve cracked down on PEDs baseball has seen a big shift back towards older players just not being worth as much as they were in the 90’s to mid 00’s. The only guess that I would have is that teams would rather throw money at a younger player than an older one at this point.

    • Well Joyce is in the fold on a minor league deal…good call. The Bucs need to show up at both the Lincecum and Masterson throwing sessions with a check in hand ready to sign one of them. It is not fair to anybody to start the season with this weak rotation. Too much speculation and wishful thinking.

    • If these guys are out of jobs when it actually matters, then there’s a problem.

  • I love every video that is posted from ST for one reason. You can ALWAYS hear the ball popping a mitt or a bat making contact. That sound is a glorious one. To not be older and fat…

  • I am hoping for Mercer to get off to a good start and have solid season at the plate.

  • I get they will probably get on base more with this lineup, but all of the top rotations are in the NL. Those top pitchers don’t give up multiple base runners often in an inning which is needed to score runs with no power. Without power in the lineup it will be hard to score without the big blast opportunity. They will have great stats because they will be boosted by scoring alot against the mediocre but when it matters against those we are competing with for the playoffs it’s concerning.

    • Chris you have an old school way of thinking not supported by any modern statistics. Do you really think that McCutchen, Kang and Marte did worse against elite pitching than Pedro did? I doubt many opposing pitchers would rather face McCutchen or Kang over Alvarez. If they did they certainly didn’t show it. How many times was Pedro intentionally walked compared to McCutchen?

      I will take my chances with a lineup that can get on base regularly over a guy who hits a solo HR occasionally.

      • LOL.

        This isn’t at all what Chris is saying. Chris is talking about sequencing. In order to score runs without the benefit of power, a team must sequence positive events together. Good pitchers do not allow positive events to happen often, let alone several at one time.

        And of course you’re strawman argument will win when you just so happen to choose the three best hitters in the organization for your comparison.

        • “Good pitchers do not allow positive events to happen often, let alone several at one time.”

          Good pitchers are good at limiting HRs as well. So, are you saying that good pitchers are disproportionately better at limiting multi-hit innings than they are at limiting HR? So a 120 wRC+ guy who’s all power will get you better results than a 120 wRC+ guy with light power?

          • This is an interesting conversation…would like to hear your thoughts.

            I’d agree and disagree with your comment about good pitchers limiting home runs. Pitchers can limit contact, and pitchers can limit fly balls, but we know that only a very, very select few can actually show a true skill in limiting home runs once the ball has been put in the air.

            My focus is on power and not strictly home runs. It is also about the run value of these events as much, if not more, than frequency. This discussion is also contextual, not individual. The question isn’t about a single player with X wRC+ derived from different means, but how that hitter fits in a lineup.

            • DING DING DING- love it NMR. Every pitcher occasionally makes a mistake pitch, what happens to the ball when that mistake is made- is solely based on the skill and power of the hitter. Do you want a hitter up whom can only “best case scenario” turn that mistake into a double, or worst case scenario hit that ball on a line right at an outfielder; or a player whom has the power to hit that pitch over the fence, with the same worst case scenario of making an out?

            • Agree that HR/FB rates tend to be around 10% regardless of how good a pitcher is. The exception might be a pitcher who can induce a lot of pop-ups.

              I don’t think there’s an easy answer. It would be interesting to know if top SP succeed by allowing less of everything, and therefore fewer runs, or if they are particularly good at eliminating compound mistakes. Or put another way, when they lose is it because they gave up extra HR, or because they gave above average HR, or because they allowed successive batters to get on base?

              Looking at the top 15 SP by WAR last year, 6 of them had a higher ERA than SIERA, so that would suggest that there is not a universal ability to spread out mistakes (though some may have it).

          • For the best example of that, use last season’s NLCS. Watch the Cubs try and do anything against the Mets. That is exactly the reason that the Cubs went out and signed Hayward and Zobrist. Those HRs looked great in the regular season, but all those SOs not so much in the postseason.

            • I don’t think Heyward or Zobrist’s numbers are any better against the Mets pitchers. They got those players to have more people on base when they do hit homers and to also offset all the empty strikeouts and lack of experience on the team, to provide more defensive flexibility and more defensive skill- not to face off against the best pitchers in the league and think they will be more successful…… in my opinion

            • Yeah those Cubbies really had their hands full with Gerrit Cole…

        • Even in that strawman argument- all three of those hitters need to get hits in order, in order to score one run. You are behind one run in the 8th inning…..Arrieta on the mound. You have up- Jaso, Jaso, and Jaso…..vs. Jaso, Walker, and Alvarez. Which scenario do we have a better chance of 1 mistake leading to a run

      • This is also the “well the Royals did it” trap.

        The Royals did it because they had high contact hitters literally at every spot in the lineup; *historically* good contact hitting team. This falls apart when you only go half way, and is why you see the Pirates focusing almost exclusively on extremely high contact players in their drafting and development.

        • DING DING DING! but unfortunately right now our roster is constructed half-way, and the royals way also only works with a lot of speed and a lot of plus defense.

          • Absolutely.

            I think the Pirates offense will be average or slightly above, but I do not believe their run prevention ability will be enough to put them in elite company.

      • I would reply but there is no reason to repeat exactly what nmr said so ditto see below

      • Sure- against an average pitcher. In the 9th inning with Chapman on the mound you have 3 singles hitters coming up, what is the chance you will get 3 hits to score a tying run versus having three guys with 20+ homerun power come up that strike out a lot? ……well, no matter who you are, you are probably going to strike out against Chapman, so you want to make sure if he makes a mistake, you can hit a homerun. This is where the power is important, and not double power, because Chapman after giving up a double, is probably going to strike out the side….

  • I’m looking at Jung-Ho run and it doesn’t look fluid. Has anyone noticed that?

  • I thought in general the Pirates struck out too much. There were too many key situations with runners on base when they would strike out. I believe Jaso will improve the lineup in this regard.

    I’m also hopeful that Polanco breaks out this year. He’s still very young and learning the adjustments he needs to make.

  • mysonisnamedafterRoberto
    February 18, 2016 4:49 am

    The other focus that a lot of people use to lump Pittsburgh into a ‘bad’ offense is the lasting impression of being shutout in the wild card games over the last two years.
    Elite pitchers shutdown good, great, even elite offensives. But the more you can increase your baserunners against them, utility outs to advance runners and put the ball in play to force the defense to make plays, the better your chances are to beat them.
    Pittsburgh removed two of their higher strikeout hitter from the lineup this past year and replaced them with guys that have more balanced offensive and can get on base more.

    • The thing about last year is they actually got to Arrieta and started hitting him hard that one inning. It’s just most of the hard hits went right to fielders for outs. A few inches to the left or right on some of those, and the Pirates might have come back that inning.

      • Tim you are so right. The ball that polanco hit would have been a sure double had not maddon just brought Bryant in from left field to play third base. Bryant,s height was the reason why that out was not an extra base hit.

  • YAY!

  • For many fans, the most disappointing part of the off-season was the starting rotation. Losing AJ and JA and replacing them with Vogelsong and Niese is not good.
    But in terms of the offense, I think many people hoped to get better. I suspect that we will get better when John Bell is up hopefully soon enough, but before then we have replaced Pedro (and his problems) with three pretty underwhelming guys. Not terrible, but also not clearly better.
    So the offense might be better. Harrison might be better than Walker. The 1B platoon might play well. And Polanco might turn the corner. But among others, that’s a lot of maybes on a team that we hoped would have very few or no maybes.

  • we’ll see- I just don’t think putting a bunch of people who need on 3-4 hits per inning to score runs is going to work the way we struggle to move runners over, situational hitting is poor in general compounded with the below average the general base running skill. I think they may put up good “stats” but just not score enough runs….and runs is what wins games.

    • You do realize this is the offensive formula the Royals used to win the WS last year?

      This Pirates team as constructed resembles that Royals team with a small ball offense, loaded bullpen, and good enough rotation. As for elite defense, that’s yet to be determined.

    • 3-4 hits?!?!? It’s not like we have a lineup of Chris Stewart playing every position, we have a perennial MVP candidate in center field, a top of the league left fielder, and a lineup with some proven ML hitters and some sleepers mixed in. The weakness isn’t in the lineup.

    • The Cards have been in the bottom 6 in all of baseball in home runs that past 3 seasons. So clearly it can work. And what do you mean we struggled moving runners over? We were 3rd in all of baseball sacrifice hits/flies last season. Your argument makes no sense at all.

    • Y2JGQ2 you contradict yourself. There is plenty of evidence both statistics and real world that says high contact and OBP teams will out score a team of Alvarez’s. One of the biggest reasons the Pirates failed in situational hitting was 90% of the time Pedro came to the plate with runners in scoring position he struck out or hit weak ground balls. He couldn’t even hit sac flys well this offense will be better without him. The HR is overvalued when it comes in the form of .240 hitter. Players like Stargell and Parker hit for power AND average while drawing plenty of walks but they are rare in today’s game.

      • What did I say to contradict myself? Your evidence is merely subjective and bias quite honestly. I’m not saying that to be mean, because I make arguments like that sometimes too, but I didn’t contradict myself. I might be wrong, but I’m in no way arguing with myself……I simply have a different point of view. That being said I don’t want a team of Alvarez’s either- in fact I don’t really want any Alvarez’s. I like players whom give you a little bit of everything like Marte for example. It’s not reasonable to think that Cutch is going to hit .400 with runners in scoring position again this year, and Ramirez was about the only person you could count on to get a run in from 3rd base with less than two outs on a consistent basis, although he just as often hit into inning ending double plays. I don’t believe that a .240 hitter whom hits 30 homeruns is a bad thing at all, as long as he isn’t an auto out vs. a same handed pitcher or an automatic double play if he doesn’t hit the ball in the air. I’d honestly prefer guys whom are at least capable of hitting 20 homers and don’t strike out more than say…..25%- We have no one to provide protection for Cutch or to make a team pay if they pitch around him. Kang is not going to provide it, nor will Marte.

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