Williams: Variability, Versatility, and Victory

It used to be really easy to run analysis on the offense of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

You could go to FanGraphs, pull up the offensive team leaders, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and see if the Pirates were last, or next to last.


I had to spend extra time searching through the rankings to discover that the Pirates rank 9th in wOBA (.334) and 12th in wRC+ (107) in all of baseball. They rank third in isolated power, seventh in walk rate, and have the ninth lowest strikeout rate. The team BABIP is a very conservative .292, ranking middle of the pack in the league.

This all comes despite injuries to Oneil Cruz and Ji-Man Choi. It comes with a big assist from offseason additions like Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Santana, and Connor Joe.

What is most impressive is that the lineup remains victorious in the face of variability and the need to manage so much versatility on the roster. The breakdown below looks at all of the players who have started a game in Pittsburgh this year, along with where they hit and fielded in the lineup.


The most common lineup, from the active players, is as follows:

  1. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
  2. Bryan Reynolds, LF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, DH
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B
  5. Connor Joe, RF
  6. Jack Suwinski, CF
  7. Rodolfo Castro, SS
  8. Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B
  9. Austin Hedges, C

You’ll notice in the details below that there is a lot more variability in spots 5-8, dealing with the outfielders and middle infielders.


Where He Bats: 1st (12), 5th (5), 6th (4), 3rd (1)

Where He Fields: 3B

Playing Status: Hayes moved into the leadoff spot on April 15th and has started there every game since. Prior to that, he was mostly 5th/6th, with one game batting third and three batting leadoff.


Where He Bats: 2nd (21)

Where He Fields: LF, CF

Playing Status: Reynolds is currently on the Bereavement list, and expected to return on Tuesday. He played three games in a row in center field from April 2nd through April 4th. Since then, he’s started one game in center, spending the rest of time in left.


Where He Bats: 3rd (17), 2nd (1)

Where He Fields: DH, RF

Playing Status: McCutchen has made 18 starts, getting most of his work as the designated hitter. In fact, he’s been the DH in every game since April 13th, when he started in right field and had his lone time batting second in the order.


Where He Bats: 4th (21), 3rd (1)

Where He Fields: 1B, DH

Playing Status: Santana has mostly been the cleanup hitter, save for one game on April 13th when he hit third. He’s only been the designated hitter in four of his games, and has played in all but one game. The Pirates lost that game 3-0.


Where He Bats: 5th (7), 3rd (2), 6th (2), 7th (2), 4th (1)

Where He Fields: RF, 1B, LF

Playing Status: Joe has spent most of his time hitting in the five spot. He’s started a few times batting third in recent games when Andrew McCutchen gets a day off. Joe has been hitting very well all season, and gives a nice addition to the top four in this order. He plays first base when Andrew McCutchen or Carlos Santana need a day off.


Where He Bats: 6th (5), 5th (4), 7th (3), 8th (3)

Where He Fields: CF, RF, LF

Playing Status: Suwinski has been the primary starter in center field, yielding to Bae for a few games. He has started six games in a row, which is an increase in pace from the early part of the month. He has moved up to the 5th/6th spots after all of the recent injuries.


Where He Bats: 6th (7), 7th (7), 8th (3)

Where He Fields: SS, 2B, 3B

Playing Status: Castro has an even split of time between the sixth and seventh spots in the order. He’s moved up to the six spot more consistently over the last ten games. He’s also gotten most of his time at shortstop with Oneil Cruz out. While Castro has 17 starts, he’s been a main guy off the bench, getting in all but one game.


Where He Bats: 8th (11), 7th (3), 1st (3)

Where He Fields: CF, 2B, SS

Playing Status: The Pirates tried Bae as the leadoff hitter for a brief stretch from April 11th-April 14th, rotating him with Hayes. He eventually moved back to the eight spot. He started the season with seven starts in the team’s first eight games. He’s since been starting about every other game.


Where He Bats: 9th

Where He Fields: C

Playing Status: Since returning, Hedges has been starting three games in a row, with Delay getting the start on the day off.


It’s hard to call any of these players true bench players. Every one of them gets regular playing time and starts, with the exception of the backup catchers.


Where He Bats: 6th (4), 7th (3), 5th (2)

Where He Fields: RF, LF

Playing Status: He’s been the top backup in the outfield, but hasn’t started two games in a row since the third and fourth in Boston.


Where He Bats: 7th (5), 8th (3)

Where He Fields: 2B

Playing Status: Mathias is benefitting from the loss of Oneil Cruz, getting all of his starts at second base after arriving to replace Cruz. He and Tucupita Marcano are now splitting time at second, with Bae getting the occasional start.


Where He Bats: 8th (3), 2nd (1)

Where He Fields: 2B

Playing Status: Marcano came up to replace Choi, and has been working into the second base mix, with Ji-Hwan Bae moving to center field more often.


Where He Bats: 9th

Where He Fields: C

Playing Status: Delay has an even split in playing time, only because Austin Hedges was out for a week. In that time, Delay emerged as the primary starter when Hedges is out, and won the backup job from Tyler Heineman.


Where He Bats: 9th

Where He Fields: C

Playing Status: He’s in Triple-A right now, but would be the top backup to slide into that 9th spot in the order and the defensive role behind the plate.



Where He Bats: 1st (8), 6th (1)

Where He Fields: SS

Playing Status: Cruz won’t return until August. He will be the equivalent of a trade deadline addition. He’d slide back into the number one spot in the order, which would slide everyone down. Ke’Bryan Hayes moves to the middle of the order. Connor Joe strengthens the bottom half of the lineup.


Where He Bats: 5th (5), 3rd (2), 4th (1)

Where He Fields: DH, 1B

Playing Status: Choi had been the primary DH, serving as a replacement at first for Santana. He’s been out since April 13th, which led to a lot of changes in the lineup structure. This injury could impact Santana and McCutchen in the long-term, as it removes a piece from the 1B/DH/RF matrix. The fact that Connor Joe is playing so well helps to mitigate this loss.


  1. Oneil Cruz, SS
  2. Bryan Reynolds, LF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, DH
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B
  5. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
  6. Connor Joe, RF
  7. Jack Suwinski, CF
  8. Ji-Hwan Bae, 2B
  9. Austin Hedges, C

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

Support Pirates Prospects

Related articles

join the discussion

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

One of my learned colleagues on P2 wrote earlier this year that xwOBA is the best evaluator- and in that category the Pirates have 6 hitters rated highly

#4 Jack Suwinski .457
#27 Bryan Reynolds .408
#4 1 Andrew McCutchen .389
#4 2 Connor Joe .389
#74 Ke’Bryan Hayes .355
#104 Rodolfo Castro .338

Six Pirate hitters right at the Top 100 of probably 230 Qualified MLB hitters is phenomenal. Pitching should also be excellent.

Wilbur Miller

Here’s an interesting factoid:

As of now, every starter has two wins except Velasquez, who has three. Last year, no starter got a second win until Zach Thompson on May 14. No starter got a third win until Thompson on June 5.

Wilbur Miller

This figures . . .

Reynolds isn’t eligible to return until Wednesday. Bereavement list has 3 day minimum. What figures is that Ethan caught it, not the beat writers.

Anyway, Maggi has at least one more day.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wilbur Miller

I think it’s 3 day min, 7 day max. They were talking about this on the Sunday broadcast.

Wilbur Miller

It’s funny, Dejan is totally oblivious.

b mcferren

makes more sense

now exchange Canaan for a hot bat

Wilbur Miller

Good luck finding one of those.


Andujar ???

b mcferren

OT: A Brault reunion is in order

I hope he proves healthy the next week or two



Great article.

Call me crazy I’m going all in on this team. It’s insane but I put a WS bet down 250:1. I know we’re probably at least 2 years away, the depth is paper thin but my dream scenario calls for 4+ WAR from Suwinski, 3+ WAR from Joe who turns into our own Justin Turner as a late bloomer. A 4 WAR year from Oviedo who breaks Cards hearts…

Hayes turns into a league average WRC+ hitter.

Cruz returns and finds his form by late August, early September.

I will say that the top end teams don’t look as good to me this year as they have in years past.


Gulp, how much did you put down?

This is the very reason I don’t bet.

I do fantasy football and the NCAA tourney with a bunch of dudes from high school. Nothing else because I’m a degenerate.


A plus one because you know you’re a degenerate! I bet on the Vegas over for Bucs wins on the season because 68.5 seemed a touch low.


I got in at over 67.5. Played very small amount on 80 wins that pays 6:1.

My losing props would take a long, long time to list.


I’m not a betting man but that line seemed like easy money. Shoulda trusted my gut.


Haha I put $100 down. And I’m not a huge bettor. But if I lose it I can accept it. Just have this weird feeling I can’t shake.


I’m pretty sure the song of the day was “Shake It Out”. But I am with you. It’s the same reason I pick Pitt to win the NCAA tourney every year. Don’t want it to be the year I don’t but if I lose a few Bucs it is well worth it.


Crazy… but I like it


My A-lineup (healthy) would be…

  1. Cruz
  2. Reynolds
  3. Suwinski
  4. Joe
  5. Santana
  6. Cutch
  7. Castro
  8. Hayes
  9. Hedges

Against RHP or LHP?




Cutch stays #3
Joe, Santana, Suwinski
Flip Hedges and Hayes

Pirates Prospects Daily



Latest articles

Latest comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x