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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Pirates Discussion: Behind On Hitting, Ahead On Pitching

Mike Elias took over as the General Manage of the Baltimore Orioles in 2018. Ben Cherington took over as the Pittsburgh Pirates GM in 2019.

In 2022, Elias’ fourth season at the helm, the Orioles are in the running for a Wild Card spot, which the Pirates could play a part in as they take on Cherington’s previous employer the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend.

As of now the Pirates are projected by Fangraphs to finish with a 62-100 record and a bottom three finish. In 2021 the Orioles finished with a 52-110 record which the Pirates would need to go 3-29 from here on out to match. From a standpoint of the currently existing roster how do the Pirates match up and could they replicate the 2022 O’s?

Short Answer: They’ll need an infusion of Free Agent signings and/or trade acquisitions.

What I wanted to do was look at the Orioles roster as of now and compare it to last season to see who they carried along. The headline grabbing names as of today are obviously Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and even Kyle Stowers, who were the Orioles first three draft picks in 2019. But what you’ll see is they mostly had an established core of position players to slide their promising rookies in-between.


Lineup on September 1st, 2021:

Cedric Mullins – CF

Ryan Mountcastle – DH

Austin Hayes – LF

Trey Mancini – 1B

Ramon Urias – 3B

Anthony Santander – RF

Jorge Mateo – SS

Jahmai Jones – 2B

Austin Wynns – C


Six of these starters from a year ago are still currently starting regularly for the Orioles. Seven of them played a significant role in the 2022 season as Trey Mancini was only recently traded at the deadline. Jahmai Jones was released in June of this year and signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Austin Wynns was traded back in June to the San Francisco Giants.

If you look at the Pirates current roster they currently only have two starters with an above average OPS if you include Rodolfo Castro with Bryan Reynolds. Of the Orioles’ returning starters mentioned above only Jorge Mateo of the six (or seven with Mancini) was below 2021 average OPS. Kevin Newman is currently sitting at league average (.707 OPS) after his 2-for-4 game.

Where the Pirates do have a leg up is with their starting rotation. I’m going to leave out the bullpen as there are too many moving pieces and variance such as Jorge Lopez was a starter with an ERA over 6.00 in 2021 turned high leverage bullpen arm flipped at the 2022 deadline.

For the 2022 season the only established and effective starter the Orioles carried over was John Means who made only two starts this year before going down with Tommy John surgery. Dean Kremer and Spenser Watkins are two current starters that had 10+ ineffective starts in 2021.

I’d argue the Pirates have at least 3/5th’s of a stable rotation with JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, and Roansy Contreras.

If the Pirates are to take a step forward in 2023 they will need an infusion of talent by way of free agents, trade acquisitions, or younger players taking a step forward in their development.

Blue Jays @ Pirates

Time: 6:35 PM EST

Pirates Starter: Johan Oviedo (2-1, 3.20)

Blue Jays Starter: Alek Manoah (12-7, 2.60)

Oviedo Notes: This will be Johan Oviedo’s first career start and appearance for the Pirates since his acquisition at the deadline. He was acquired along with Double-A 1B Malcom Nunez for SP Jose Quintana. The 24 year old has made 19 career MLB starts in his career totaling 87.1 IP where he carries a 5.36 ERA and 0-9 record. Oviedo made five appearances with the Indianapolis Indians in Triple-A with four of them being starts. His last appearance on August 27th lasted 3.2 IP with three hits allowed, a walk, and four strike outs. Throwing a total of 63 pitches with 36 of them going for strikes. Efficiency will be key as he likely has a pitch limit in the range 75-85 pitches.



Blue Jays

1. George Springer (R) CF
2. Vladimir Guerrero (R) DH
3. Teoscar Hernandez (R) LF
4. Alejandro Kirk (R) C
5. Bo Bichette (R) SS
6. Matt Chapman (R) 3B
7. Cavan Biggio (L) 1B
8. Santiago Espinal (R) 2B
9. Jackie Bradley Jr. (L) RF

+ posts

Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.


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About that hitting…another shutout in the books.


Damn good work battling through it Chase


Definitely a keeper for 2023, and still only 2 years of MLB Service


Maybe a good roundtable discussion (did we get one of those this week?)–who should we count on as part of the pen for ’23? For me it’s Bednar, Crowe (but not counted on as our 8th-inning guy), De Jong, Holderman, and De Los Santos as locks with Underwood and Banuelos decent options. But then that starts looking a lot like this year’s pen that’s been one of the worst in the league. My top spending target would be a back-of-the-pen reliever. Or maybe Oviedo can be that guy but I like trying him as a starter.


Good suggestion. I had the same first 5, but had also included Banuelos as my 6th top RP. Banuelos is also another 2 year MLB Service guy. BTW, do the Pirates extend Bednar? Good time to do it and he certainly deserves the bucks.

Talk about Roundtable discussion topics – watching the Cruz play last night I decided to see where he ranked against all other MLB Shortstops in range. I counted all Assists, PO’s, and E’s divided by Innings played and came up with a .567 for Cruz. Closest to him is Tommy Edman at .528 and the only other SS above .500 is Javier Baez at .518. Very surprised to see other big names way down the list with Trea Turner being the worst at .379.

Then I decided to check my work against BR’s RF/9 which does not count E’s and divides IP by 9. Cruz still the best at 4.93, Edman at 4.72, and Baez at 4.47. I stopped there.


Now if we could only get the hitters to battle through at bats and protect the plate as opposed to guessing on pitches with two strikes.


It looks like Hayes might need to toughen up a little bit.


Our extensions over the last decade are frustrating. The few times we do spend money it’s often not spent well


For sure because right now it looks like it will be a stretch for Hayes to finish out that extension.


He’s becoming quite frustrating


Ugh what happened to hayes?


Took a tumble trying to backhand a shot down the line and he landed kind of awkward.


Good to see Jack with a few hits that aren’t long balls. Love the hr obviously but better contact is a plus


So transitioned from hitting the ball on the ground to pop ups……calibration almost complete!


Oviedo is a bit erratic but sure has electric stuff. If he can find a way to harness it, GMBC may have found a gem


Not that relevant to his performance but I was impressed with his English in the interview he did after he came out of the game, and just that he was willing to do an interview at all. Also, his honesty in how he answered Brown’s question about the trade. If he develops into a reliable pitcher, starter or reliever, he could become a fan favorite due to how he approaches interviews–willing and thoughtful.


Making the first start with a new club against Alek Manoah and the Blue Jays lineup – yep that could tend to affect the nerves. Hope we can get him 3 or 4 more starts before the season ends.

Wilbur Miller

I think we’re seeing why the Cards decided Oviedo is not a starter.


What do the Cards know?

Wilbur Miller

They really do only one thing better than the Pirates. Baseball.


Well, yeah, but that’s it!


George Springer is that rare speed/power/contact issue prospect that was able to figure it out! Hope Cruz, Gorski are able to figure it out.


That first inning confirms my earlier thoughts……Oviedo has closer stuff.


And pitches like a reliever, all out strike out or bust. High pitch count, needs to pitch to contact a bit more to remain a starter!


I dont mind that we are giving him a try at starting, but even if we get a high leverage pen arm out of him, thats a hell of a deal for 2 months of Q


I can’t believe you forgot Stratton!






Love this BNP. However, the O’s improvement is going to be more than 30 wins (and maybe 40)! That’s unprecedented stuff and really hard to suggest any team can improve by that margin. But the O’s front office deserves A lot of credit.


Cherington was already making excuses to Mackey this week in the PPG. Basically he said the first season they were going to evaluate. And then the pandemic hit so it set them back. What a crock.


That does seem like a bunch of crock, and contradictory to their statements that their best work often happens on the back fields. To blame delayed development on 2020 while also boasting about their work with players in non-game situations isn’t consistent.

One thing that’s always bothered me about Cherington is how he shared in an early press conference that he turned down Huntington’s offer to help with the transition (he chuckled as if it was a crazy idea that you’d ever consult with the person who was just fired). There seemed to be a lot of arrogance when he took the job about how he wanted the challenge of building a team from nothing (which ignored the talent that was already here). I can tolerate the arrogance if someone doesn’t reach for excuses then when things aren’t working out. To already be pushing back the goalposts of when we can expect to be competitive seems to be cop-out.

I wish Mackey had tried to pin Cherington down about when is a reasonable expectation to see the next good Pirates team, but instead all Mackey did in the article was defend Cherington’s excuses and suggesting a timeline (Mackey’s timeline, not Cherington’s) where we shouldn’t expect a contender until 2025.


Yes, you can’t expect that kind of improvement. But one thing I noticed when we played them was the quality of their bullpen even after trading their closer…I just checked team rankings of bullpens–all of the top 12 bullpens by xFIP are in contention for the playoffs (the O’s are 5th). Of the bottom 12, only the Phillies at 20th are in contention. We’re 29th. We have lots of needs, but the most cost-effective need to address is the bullpen. We won’t improve by 30-40 wins but a good offseason should make a ~15 game improvement realistic.


And the O’s bullpen was hideous last year. I think this proves you can overhaul a BP very quickly. But it takes great scouting and a great pitching coach.


They don’t have far to go to beat the Angels.


Appreciate your detailed analysis. Your conclusion has been obvious for a very long time. The real question has to be whether they will do the things required to become a winning team.

They need to allow their prospects to play instead of blocking them with low level veterans because there is no other way for them to develop as major league players. Some will develop and some won’t, but you have to find out which ones are which and stop keeping them in the minors because of service time concerns. That only delays development.

Will BC make trades to bring in quality veterans? It will mean having to trade away some of the very prospects everyone hopes will develop. It’s probably inevitable but just don’t give away good prospects for nothing as has happened in the past.

And the biggest question has to be if the owner will permit the spending of money to obtain quality free agents? I find it hard to believe he will, but we can hope.Does he care more about his money than winning? I don’t want to even try to answer that because I hope I’m wrong


This is all over the place and none of it makes any sense.

b mcferren

We should take a change on Miguel Sano as our 2023 DH

b mcferren



Besides acquiring better talent through trades and/or FA signings, Pirates must get better play from their best players. Specifically Reynolds, Hayes, and Cruz all will need to do much better next season if Pirates hope to play meaningful baseball in September.

Reynolds has been unproductive w/RISP all season. He’s due for progression to the mean. Hayes needs to modify his swing plane to get more lift in his batted ball profile. And Cruz needs to continue to improve his pitch recognition to limit strikeouts and increase walks and batting average.

b mcferren

Bryan Reynolds has been known to mail it in every other year

2019 .880ops
2020 .632ops
2021 .912ops
2022 .795ops

Seeing that we were bound to suck this year and he is due his first child during the season, I can’t see how he thought it wise to expend all his energy on his. day job in 2022

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