Last year at this time, we were complaining about how the Pittsburgh Pirates were winning. It was something that was so well written by R. Campbell Sproul on this very date one year ago today…,
One thing you can always count on from Clint Hurdle is a lot of good quotes, “Hurdle-isms” as it were. One of Hurdle’s phrases for when the Pirates win a game, a series, or have a win streak that happens in a sloppy fashion is “chicken wire, duct tape and spit” and that’s the way the Pirates are winning right now, it seems. Look, it’s great to be able to complain about the way the Pirates are winning right now, since usually we’re busy complaining about losing, but right now it seems like the way things are going, things have to be stabilized or else the Pirates will not be able to “finish” this season.
The Pirates are banged up right now with Wandy Rodriguez not looking like a guy that will pitch 180 innings this season. Closer Jason Grilli looks, well different. The heart and soul, Russell Martin, is on the 15 day disabled list, but General Manager Neal Huntington said he doesn’t know how long Martin will be in the tub.
Combine the injuries with the challenges Starling Marte is having making contact with the baseball.
The void in right field.
All those outs coming from left handed first basemen.
The insane hot start of Pedro Alvarez, followed by another dry spell.
The challenges with getting any offense from shortstop.
The sheer stage fright of the offense to perform when runners are on the base paths.
The bottom line is the team needs to start winning ugly again. Winning in bunches is the only way they will be able to gain some ground on the #1stPlaceBrewers.
It’s been a tough start for the Pirates who are still trying to play their first game with a team outside of the NL Central. The Bucs are nine and a half back of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ryan Braun is on fire
The team is stuck in first gear in miserable Baltimore trying to get two games in against the Orioles. Hurdle has made some lineup changes to address the teams inability to score runs.
Moving Jose Tabata to the top of the order is a smart move, basically because the team has only one other option and that player is still refining his skills in Indianapolis. The move will force Tabata to improve on the lowest walk rate of his career by lowering his highest career strikeout rate. Sigh.
We know Marte will come out of his skid–Hurdle had him explain his approach to him on Saturday. God, that had to be a great conversation. Marte hitting seventh will wake him up.
Speaking of sleeping, Ike Davis needs to start producing. We heard Davis in an interview describe his goals for each game–to get a walk and a knock every game.
Neil Walker has been extremely hard to strike out in April. The .217 BABIP screams that he will find some luck sooner or later.
Jordy Mercer needs to knock some lefties around and regain his confidence.
Tony Sanchez needs to continue his hitting streak with swinging bunts, infield singles, whatever, however. The .533 BABIP screams regression, but let’s pretend we don’t see that. (A scream from that voice in my head…. Heh, what about that 40% strikeout rate?) Shut it.
The focus of the chicken wire, duct tape and spit mentality might best be found with El Toro. Here’s a nugget to consider when the big bull is having an offensive slide. Alvarez should try to slap a few singles to the left side of the infield, but only when the bad guys heavily shift to the right side.
The slugger has actually had more fly outs to left field this year than to right field. So, he’s trying, just getting some air under the ball. And I know….sluggers don’t bunt, so while I wouldn’t ask for a bunt, just slapping a few that way right now would suffice. It will help reduce the shifts later in the season. If the opposition is giving up a single, Pedro needs to be told to take it.
If the good Pirates offensive players can improve slightly, their best offensive player, Andrew McCutchen can take care of the rest. Especially if the pitching staff finds third gear.
That’s the bottom line for a struggling offense–move the order along, let that hitter behind you do his job too. As much as the Hurdlisms get old…I miss them now. It wouldn’t hurt to hear one next week after the Bucs roll off some wins against AL teams.