Pirates’ Hitting Woes Proving Costly

Once the toast of the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates are coming back down to earth. With the entirety of the NL Central playing awful baseball, the Pirates still cling to first in the division. The pitching has regressed a bit for Pittsburgh, but that is to be expected. The Pirates’ hitting woes are the more worrisome part of the current slump.

Losers of nine of their last ten games, the Pirates are hitting a dreadful .171 across those ten games. Further, their combined team OPS is .566 in the last ten. They’ve scored only 15 runs in that same time frame with 95 strikeouts. Talk about a slump. Andrew McCutchen, one of the biggest names in franchise history, sat out a few games with a nagging injury. He returned this week for the series against the Colorado Rockies. The team as a whole had 14 plate appearances with runners in scoring position in the series. They combined for three hits, two of them from McCutchen. Ouch.

Just a few weeks ago, the Pirates scored 33 runs across three games at the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field. They could only muster 15 total hits in three games against the same team at PNC Park. Without a doubt, it is not one of their better showings.

Looking Into Pirates’ Hitting Woes

The team that has taken the field over the last ten games is a shell of what the Pirates were for the first 30 or so games. It is jarring to watch. The at-bats look disjointed. Pitches that weren’t being chased for the first 30 games suddenly are getting swung at. The approach as a whole has been different. Without a doubt, guys are pressing. The Pirates’ hitting has gone flat-out cold.

The Pirates’ pitching staff as a whole over the past ten games is pitching to a 5.02 ERA. That isn’t great either. They still likely would’ve lost a handful of the games over the last ten even with average hitting. That inflated ERA comes despite Mitch Keller’s complete game shutout masterpiece against the Rockies on Monday. Not great.

Over the last ten days, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is the only player with a batting average higher than .300. Rodolfo Castro, Ji Hwan Bae, Austin Hedges, and Carlos Santana are each batting under .200 over the team’s last ten games. Jack Suwinski has two hits over that time frame. Miguel Andujar has one. Guys that were tearing the cover off the ball to start the year have regressed considerably. Is this just a reaction to their original overachieving, or are these hitting woes indicative of just what the Pirates are? Only time will answer that question.

Is There Any Help in the Minors?

Mightily struggling, the Pirates recently promoted 27-year-old outfielder Josh Palacios. Palacios was a minor league Rule-5 pick for the Buccos this offseason. He has spent time in the majors before but nothing notable. He had been tearing the cover off the ball at Triple-A Indianapolis with a .434/.500/.774 slash line. It is unclear how much he’ll provide but the Pirates, are desperate for a hot bat and general manager Ben Cherington is hoping to bring one to Pittsburgh in Palacios. Chris Owings, a 31-year-old journeyman utility player, is also now in Pittsburgh. He’d also been swinging a hot stick in Triple-A, and the need for a hot bat is high. Thus, Owings gets another shot in the majors.

2021 first-overall selection Henry Davis mashed two home runs on Wednesday and is staking a claim to skip over Triple-A and play in the big leagues. Endy Rodriguez’s rapid rise has him just one level away from The Show. There are some options in the minors. Some of them are guys like Davis and Rodriguez who seem to have a real future in Pittsburgh. They certainly don’t need to be rushed, but the Pirates also must gauge when the time is right and pull the trigger accordingly. If they plan to continue competing in the NL Central, a turnaround is needed. They don’t have to be the team of the first 30 games. However, they have to be markedly better than this version.


Photo Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Players Mentioned: Andrew McCutchen, Mitch Keller, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Rodolfo Castro, Ji Hwan Bae, Austin Hedges, Carlos Santana, Jack Suwinski, Miguel Andujar, Josh Palacios, Chris Owings, Henry Davis, Endy Rodriguez