NEW YORK – Last night I wrote about the choice the Pirates have with Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl. Both starters are struggling in the majors right now, and while the Pirates improved to 26-31 with today’s win, they’re not looking like a team that could be a strong contender this year. That complicates things when you realize that keeping Glasnow and Kuhl in the majors lowers their chances to contend.
So the choice is either to send them down to work on things in the minors, going for a lower probability chance of contending this year, or keeping them up to work on their issues in the majors, focusing more on the long-term.
There’s another factor that complicates this matter, and that is how well Trevor Williams has been pitching lately in the rotation. After a rough first outing against the Dodgers, Williams combined for a 3.32 ERA and a 4.44 xFIP in his previous four starts. Today he followed that up with seven innings, giving up one run on seven hits, with three strikeouts and two walks as the Pirates won 11-1 over the Mets.
“The only game that he didn’t pitch well was the first one,” Clint Hurdle said after today’s game. “Just the overall execution and command of his stuff has been really good.”
Williams doesn’t have the upside that Glasnow or Kuhl have, so he doesn’t project as a starter over those two in the long-term. But there’s something to be said for results, and seeing what a guy can actually do. If expected upside was the only thing that mattered, Adam Frazier wouldn’t have received a chance to play himself into being a top bench option, and the top starting option off the bench when an injury occurs. Frazier has reached his expected upside of a super utility player, and may be in the process of out-performing that. Who is to say that Williams can’t do the same?
Jameson Taillon will be returning soon, which means the Pirates will have to open a spot in the rotation. Williams was the replacement for Taillon, but with the way he’s been pitching, he definitely has earned more starts. The only question is which struggling starter do you take out of the rotation? Or do you go for upside, let Glasnow and Kuhl work it out, and move Williams back to the bullpen until he is needed again?
Hurdle declined to comment on any decisions, but did note that there’s always an evaluation process going on.
“He’s done what he’s been asked to do,” Hurdle said. “Everything gets evaluated every time a guy touches a ball and goes out there. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Williams will get at least one more start before Taillon returns. After that, the Pirates will have their difficult decision to make.
The Offense Heats Up
The Pirates went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position yesterday. They capitalized on those opportunities today, going 6-for-12, and taking advantage of a few Mets errors to score a few unearned runs. It was a big turnaround for the offense, leading to their second double-digit run game in their last three games.
The hope for the Pirates is that this will allow the offense to heat up. Some of the top performers from today have been stepping up frequently the last few weeks. Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison are looking like a dynamic pair at the top of the lineup. John Jaso has been hot at the plate since early May. David Freese may be showing signs that he’s getting back into form after his injury. Jordy Mercer has shown a hot bat lately.
Then there’s Andrew McCutchen, who Travis Barnett wrote about today, noting some signs of optimism. McCutchen had three hits today, making hard contact, and hitting his ninth homer of the year. He’s been fantastic since returning and batting sixth overall. The Pirates could certainly use his bat, and more performances like they saw today and on Friday going forward.
Harrison Feels Fine
Josh Harrison was hit in the back of the calf with a pitch today, and was lifted for Max Moroff later in the inning as a pinch runner. Harrison said after the game that he will be fine, but that his calf got tight during the game right after being hit. Considering the score, there wasn’t much reason to keep him in the game. And with an off-day on Monday, it doesn’t seem he will miss any time.