Monday, May 9, 2016

The Pirates at the 1/5 Pole

For all you mathematical sticklers out there, I will stipulate that the Pirates, having played 31 games are only at the 19.1% mark of the season, are not exactly at the 1/5 Pole, so please save your comments on that facet of this post at least.

Okay, the Pirates are at 17-14, a pace that would earn them 89 wins (the exact number predicted by The Grandstander, btw), not great, but not bad, and a mark that would certainly have them in contention for at least a Wild Card spot in the post season.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that the Chicago Cubs have a record of 24-6 (which includes a 3-0 series pasting of the Pirates at PNC Park last week), and are seven and one-half games ahead of the second place Pirates.  The pace that the Cubs are currently on (.800) would have them winning 130 games this season.  Certainly, they are not going to remain on that pace over 162 games, and certainly Jake Arietta, 24-1 over his last twenty-five regular season starts, will not maintain that pace either (he really can't, can he?), and 7.5 games can certainly be made up over the next 131 games, but.....

Yep, there's a but, and it revolves around the Pirates starting pitching, which has been, somewhat mediocre this season, and the bullpen, which has been lousy.  A perfect example would be yesterday's performance of Ryan Vogelsong.  With the Pirates having a five run lead over the Cardinals, Vogelsong was brought in to pitch the ninth inning.  He got one out and loaded the bases and had to be relieved.  When you can't get out of an inning with a five run lead, well, that ain't good, folks.

Also, and in the true tradition of Pirates fans, let's dwell on the past for a bit, by comparing departed Buccos to the current guys who have replaced them.

How about new first baseman John Jaso and his predecessor, Pedro Alvarez.




John Jaso
Pedro Alvarez
AB
106
63
Runs
14
4
HR
3
2
RBI
12
7
K
12
15
BB
11
11
BA
0.302
0.206
OPS
0.841
0.701

Of course, Pedro does not have a comparable number of at bats with the Orioles, but when you look at the BA and the OPS, you'd have to say that Jaso is doing more than an adequate job in replacing Alvarez.  I know what you're going to say, "Let's see if Jaso hits those 27 homers that Pedro did."  Fair point, and Jaso will probably not hit half that number of dingers, but if that average and OPS stay on track, I'll take it.  And while I do not have the defensive metrics at hand, the eye test tells me that Jaso in the field has more than lapped Pedro in that department.

And then there is the loss of the Pittsburgh Kid, Neil Walker.  Josh Harrison has replaced him at second base.


Josh Harrison
Neil Walker
AB
116
112
Runs
13
14
HR
1
9
RBI
17
19
K
18
24
BB
5
6
BA
0.319
0.259
OPS
0.761
0.806
Hard to make the call on this one.  Harrison is outhitting Walker by sixty points, and has only one fewer run scored and two fewer RBIs despite the fact that Walker has out homered him 9-1.  Walker's OPS is forty-five points higher, they both strike out a lot and don't walk enough.  Using the same eye test that I used above with Jaso and Alvarez, I would say that Walker is better with the leather than Harrison, but not by all that much.  I call this a toss up.

Of course, the real judgment on the Neil Walker trade is the performance of the guy who came here in exchange for him.  Pitcher Jon Niese is currently 3-1 with a 5.94 ERA, 1.68 WHIP, and a BA Against of .309. Right now, that trade is heavily skewed in favor of the Mets.

Some more good news: the Pirates are now 10-8 against NL Central Division teams.  Better than last year, but that record also includes an 0-3 mark against the Cubs.

Oh, and one other statistical anomaly concerning the Cubs.  As of this morning, their 7.5 game lead over the second place Pirates, is greater than the lead of the first place team over the fifth place team in three of the other five divisions.  And take away the terrible Braves and Twins in their divisions, and the fourth place teams in those divisions are closer to first place than the Pirates are to the Cubs.  So much for all the hype over the superiority of the NL Central, competitiveness-wise.

Conclusions?  None to be made at this point.  The pitching has to get better, and Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow are banging on the door with sledge hammers down there in Indy.  Also, someone has to start slowing down the Cubs.  The Washington Nationals, nominally the second best team in the NL had the chance to do so this weekend and went 0-4.  (The Nats, by the way, are now nominally the third best team in the NL as a result.) Is it too much to ask the Pirates to begin that process this coming weekend with that three game series in Wrigley?  It will be right in front of them.

I'm not ready to give up, nor am I ready to concede the World Series to the Cubs at this point, but better pitching from the Pirates and the slowing down of the Cubs need to start soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the insightful information based on the facts, not emotion. I like the Jaso kid, he is playing a steady first base and I do not cringe when he comes up with men on base. I don't know about those pesky Cubs...they are a juggernaut in the Central Div who have no chinks in their armor. Let's Go Bucs, it will be fun watching how this plays out in the 2016 campaign.

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