Morning Report: The Pirates Have an Extremely Important Month Ahead of Them

The projection systems don’t favor the Pirates to make the playoffs, and it’s not close.

Taking an average of the projections from Baseball Prospectus, Clay Davenport, Fangraphs, and FiveThirtyEight, the Pirates have an 11.2% chance of making the playoffs this morning. That ranks 9th among NL playoff contenders, even after adding Chris Archer and Keone Kela, and even after winning two of three since the deadline.

On the low end, you have Baseball Prospectus and Clay Davenport, both giving the Pirates an 8.2% chance, which either ties or is worse than the Giants in each simulation. FanGraphs is the most optimistic at 15.2%, and FiveThirtyEight comes in at 13%. Even if you use the most optimistic projections, the Pirates are still in ninth, and only getting closer to the Rockies.

So wrap it up and go home, right? Not exactly.

Those standings show just how important the next month is going to be in almost every single game. Almost every single game is important because almost every single game is against a team competing with the Pirates in the standings for the playoffs.

This weekend they have two more against the Cardinals, and then three on the road against the Cardinals later in the month. That’s five games against a team right behind the Pirates in the standings with a 10.6% chance of making the playoffs.

They have three games on the road against the Rockies at the start of next week. The Rockies are one spot ahead of them in the projected standings at 21.3%.

If the current projections held true, the Braves would win the second Wild Card spot with 54.2% odds. The Pirates play them three times at home in the middle of August, followed by a three game series on the road to start the month of September.

The Brewers are currently in line for the first Wild Card spot, with 71.7% odds. The Pirates have three games against them this month, and six more in September.

Then there’s the Cubs, who the Pirates aren’t going to catch for the division, but who they play four times this month, and four times on the road in September. The Cubs have the best odds of making the playoffs in the NL at 92.7%. Even if the Pirates can’t catch them, those will be games where they need to at least split evenly, so as to not lose ground to other teams in the Wild Card race.

If you look at the standings, the Pirates aren’t as far out as the projections would indicate. They’re four games back in the Wild Card race, and that amount probably doesn’t seem as big due to the way they’ve been playing over the last month, and the new additions they made to the team.

But four games is tough to make up. The Pirates went 17-5 since July 7th and that gained them six games in the Wild Card race.

Fortunately, with the upcoming schedule they have, another similar run would carry more impact, since the wins would be coming against the very teams they are chasing. That gives every win double the impact, and makes all of these games in the next month extremely important to their chances of making the playoffs.


The Pirates are in third place in their division, trailing by 6.5 games with 52 games left on the schedule. They trail the second wild card team by four games.

Indianapolis is in first place and they lead by 3.5 games with 29 games left in their schedule.

Altoona is in second place and trails by five games with 31 games left in their schedule. They lead the race for the second playoff spot by 2.5 games.

Bradenton is in fifth place and trails by 9.5 games with 29 games left in their schedule.

West Virginia is in sixth place and trail by nine games with 29 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team by 5.5 games and could make the playoffs if Lakewood wins the second half title and they finish second.

Morgantown is in sixth place and trail by 11.5 games with 30 games left in their schedule.

Bristol is in fourth place and trails by 7.5 games with 27 games left in their schedule. They trail the second place team, which also gets a playoff spot, by four games.

The GCL Pirates are in fourth place and trail by eight games with 18 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates1 are in sixth place and trail by ten games with 19 games left in their schedule.

The DSL Pirates2 are in fifth place and trail by 16.5 games with 19 games left in their schedule.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 7-6 over the St Louis Cardinals on Friday night. Ivan Nova will get the start tonight, coming off of his last outing on July 27th when he gave up three runs over five innings against the New York Mets. The Cardinals will counter with left-hander Austin Gomber, who has a 3.22 ERA in 22.1 innings, with 18 strikeouts and a 1.16 WHIP. In his last start, he gave up two runs over 6.1 innings against the Cincinnati Reds.

The minor league schedule includes Shane Baz trying to bounce back from his shortest start of the season. He allowed three runs over three innings in his last game. JT Brubaker has allowed one run over seven innings in each of his last two starts. He had eight strikeouts and no walks in his start on Monday. Domingo Robles goes for West Virginia, and just like JT Brubaker, he has allowed one run over seven innings in each of his last two starts. Morgantown has a doubleheader today after a rain out yesterday.

MLB: Pittsburgh (57-53) vs Cardinals (56-54) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Ivan Nova (4.33 ERA, 82:22 SO/BB, 114.1 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (61-50) @ Toledo (57-53) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: JT Brubaker (3.54 ERA, 70:32 SO/BB, 86.1 IP)

AA: Altoona (58-49) vs Akron (65-46) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Escobar (3.38 ERA, 8:8 SO/BB, 16.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (49-54) vs Clearwater (56-51) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Evan Piechota (6.00 ERA, 14:7 SO/BB, 24.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (55-51) vs Augusta (53-55) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Domingo Robles (3.11 ERA, 85:25 SO/BB, 110.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (17-29) @ Williamsport (18-27) 5:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Michael LoPresti (5.08 ERA, 11:10 SO/BB, 28.1 IP) and TBD

Rookie: Bristol (18-23) @ Kingsport (22-19) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Shane Baz (5.05 ERA, 42:19 SO/BB, 35.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (17-19) vs Blue Jays 10:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (25-28) vs Brewers/Indians 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (20-33) vs Tigers2 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Altoona on Wednesday and Thursday. First up, Ke’Bryan Hayes with the only run in Wednesday’s 1-0 victory

Bryan Reynolds had a big day on Thursday, highlighted by this home run


8/3: AJ Schugel assigned to Bradenton on rehab.

8/3: Pirates option Steven Brault to Indianapolis. Recall Dovydas Neverauskas

8/2: Alfredo Reyes promoted to Indianapolis. Pedro Vasquez activated from Altoona disabled list.

8/2: Nick Kingham optioned to Indianapolis.

8/2: Leandro Pina placed on 60-day minor league DL.

8/1: Eric Wood activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

8/1: Bralin Jackson activated from the disabled list.

8/1: Pirates sign Mason Fishback. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

8/1: Pirates sign Carlos Jimenez, Andy Maldonado and Franrielis Mercedes.

7/31: Pirates trade Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow and a PTBNL to Rays for Chris Archer.

7/31: Pirates trade Taylor Hearn and a PTBNL to Rangers for Keone Kela.

7/29: Ben Bengtson and Rodolfo Castro placed on disabled list. Raul Siri and Jhoan Herrera added to West Virginia roster.

7/29: Erich Weiss activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/28: Pirates sign Justin Morris. Assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/28: Josh Smoker claimed off waivers by Detroit Tigers

7/28: Josh Bell placed on disabled list. Jose Osuna recalled from Indianapolis.

7/28: Corey Dickerson placed on disabled list. Austin Meadows recalled from Indianapolis.

7/27: Pirates option Michael Feliz to Indianapolis. Recall Alex McRae

7/27: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/26: Deon Stafford placed on disabled list. Rafelin Lorenzo activated from West Virginia DL.

7/26: Francisco Cervelli activated from DL. Jacob Stalling optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Pirates recall Adam Frazier. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.


Eight former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus an unfortunate transaction of note. On this date in 1917, the Pirates put first baseman George Kelly on waivers, losing him to the Giants. He did not do well for the Pittsburgh, but the Pirates weren’t good back then, so they would have been better off holding onto Kelly. By 1920, he led the league in RBIs and averaged over 100 per season from 1920-25. He also lead the league again in 1924. During that streak, the Giants played in four straight World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1973.

Former players born on this date include:

Steve Bieser, 1998 outfielder.

Ruben Rodriguez, caught two games in both the 1986 and 1988 season, his only Major League experience. Pirates signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 1981.

Bill Schuster, shortstop for the 1937 Pirates. Made his debut as pinch-runner during a late season call-up, then played both games of a doubleheader at shortstop during his brief time with Pirates. Those were his only three games with the team.

Homer Blankenship, 1928 pitcher. Had a 5.82 ERA in 21.2 innings for Pirates. Pitched with his older brother Ted on the 1922 White Sox.

Cliff Lee, catcher during the 1919-20 seasons. Pirates put him on waivers prior to the 1921 season and he ended up hitting .322 with 17 homers for the Phillies that year.

Paddy O’Connor, catcher for the 1909 champs. He played for the team from 1908-10, backing up George Gibson.

Lew Moren, pitcher for the 1903-04 teams. Late season call-up for 1903 World Series team, did not pitch in series.

Jake Beckley, Hall of Fame first base, played for team in 1888-89, then again from 1891 until 1896. For the Pirates, he was a .300 hitter in 950 games, driving in 664 runs and scoring 701 times. He is fourth all-time in triples. You can read a full bio for Beckley here.




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