Another long season for the Pittsburgh Pirates has everyone, including diehard fans, asking if they will ever be good again. We know the 162 games of an MLB season, six plus months, can be dreary, even tedious when you are constantly losing. And, not just for players. If you are a fan of a team that is not expected to compete, such as the Pirates, it feels like the six months will never end.
Looked Positive for 2022
During Spring Training 2022, Manager Derek Shelton talked about the final month of the 2021 season with positivity. There were some bright spots for this team to build on in 2022. The Pirates were competitive in the final month, with a 13-12 record. The team also committed the fewest errors in baseball and their fielding percentage put them in a tie for first for the entire 2021 season.
Pitcher David Bednar was a key piece for their bullpen. He was 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA along with three saves and 77 strikeouts in 61 appearances. He quickly established himself as their most dominant reliever and would be the closer for 2022.
Also, Bryan Reynolds emerged as a top player. The outfielder hit .302 with 24 home runs and 90 RBI. Defensively he was outstanding. In 159 games, he only committed four errors.
What Happened in 2022
The Pirates were excited about their hitting to start this season. However, they have never been able to get it going. They are last in MLB in batting average and hits. They are last in the NL in striking out and runs scored, slugging average, and on-base percentage. You are not going to win many games with those statistics.
Their leading hitter is Reynolds, but he is hitting just .251. They expected big seasons from Ke’Bryan Hayes and Michael Chavis. Both, however, have struggled with consistency.
And pitching? It’s not any better. They are in the bottom five, in ERA, home runs allowed, and opponent’s slugging percentage. Their starting staff has been abysmal. Only Jose Quintana has an ERA under 4.00 and he could be traded on Tuesday.
Even their fielding has cost them games. The Pirates are last in the most errors, fielding percentage, and putouts.
Manager Derek Shelton
Another long season for the Pittsburgh Pirates has the fans questioning whether Manager Derek Shelton should be let go. He currently has a 120-198 record for a .377 winning percentage. The lack of development from some of their recent top draft picks has not panned out. Players such as Will Craig (no longer in baseball) Ke’Bryan Hayes, Mitch Keller, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker (no longer with the Pirates), and various other high draft picks have not helped Shelton’s case.
However, his players like and appreciate him for his openness and communication. He is committed to getting better at all aspects of managing and he has some excellent coaches around him that he can rely on.
So, what do you do? Just like the organization is in a total rebuild, patience is needed with Shelton. He continues to work and grow into what this organization needs—that is, he’s building while he’s rebuilding. Give him time to show what he can do.
Fans Left Wondering
Currently, through Sunday’s games only the Washington Nationals and the Oakland Athletics have a worse record than the Pirates. With 60 games left, the fans are wondering why they should even care. They are tired of losing and the team’s last or near last-place finishes. There is one great reason to care, their young players and prospects.
Top Minor League System
Another long season for the Pittsburgh Pirates means no playoffs this year, but their farm system is ranked number seven by mlb.com. They have plenty of top talent that can provide help sooner than later. The question is whether they will they call up more of these guys as the season continues.
Making smart moves with these prospects could instantly make this a more exciting baseball team for the fans.
Rest of the Season
Another long season for the Pittsburgh Pirates means they should be all about giving young players an extended look. That is, if you’re going down anyway, start using your younger players. Get them some experience at a time when the pressures won’t be as hard on them. Doing this will allow the front office and Shelton and his coaching staff to better determine which players could have a long-term future with the organization and which do not.
To that end, they should continue to play Oneil Cruz. He is their top prospect and needs to be starting at shortstop for the rest of the year. Cal Mitchell is another exciting player that needs to play the rest of the year. He has the power and the speed to be the long-term answer in the outfield for this team. He can play all three outfield spots. Jack Suwinski has been outstanding as a defender in the outfield. And while his batting average is currently below .200, he has shown flashes of power at the plate with 14 home runs in just over 200 at-bats.
Looking at pitching, Roansy Contreras looks like he has the tools to be a solid starter. His fastball and changeup are MLB-ready. Bryse Wilson has had a tough season with a 1-6 record and an ERA over 6, but he has had two quality starts as of late. He brings that bulldog mentality to the mound and he goes right after hitters with a solid three-pitch mix that includes a 94-96 MPH fastball.
Young Players + No Pressure = Excitement
We know fans do not want to watch minor league players on the big-league roster. However, making these moves now could make the team better while giving these prospects MLB experience. Not only would fans get to see their future on the field, but they could also see some incredible baseball while these young players set out to prove what they can do.
Newly called-up players want to show they belong and put it all out there. Knowing mistakes aren’t going to be as costly allows them to take extra chances, such as turning a single into a double, a hit and run play, or even stolen bases. There is no pressure because they know they are not contending. They may even win more than they lose.
It may be another long season for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they have the chance to go out slugging and giving their fans something to cheer about.