The Pirates may not make the playoffs, however, there’s still plenty of intriguing storylines.
While the Pittsburgh Steelers are having General Hospital levels of drama, the Pittsburgh Pirates are quietly grinding out their season. With four weeks left the Pirates are on the waaaay outside looking in. The team is streaky and it is “technically” possible to make the playoffs with a win streak to rival the 2007 Colorado Rockies. The reality is Pittsburgh will be playing spoiler again. However, that doesn’t mean it’s time to abandon the team and pretend they don’t exist! There are quite a few reasons to check in on the Pirates as the close out the season.
The battle for second base
In the veteran corner, with eight years of experience and two all-star bids is JOSH HARRISON! Representing the young guns is the “Bat that Attacks” ADAM FRAZIER! At the beginning of this season, it seemed like a shoo-in that the Pirates would pick up Josh’s option. He was hitting well and coming off an all-star year. Frazier was scuffling so bad that he had to be sent back to AAA. Harrison then took a pitch off his hand (again) and was sent to the DL. Since returning from that injury Josh has struggled. Harrison is currently hitting .255/.298/.658 for a 78 wRC+. That’s really, really bad.
On the other end, Adam Frazier has been straight fire since being promoted and has raised his hitting line to .286/.356/.464 and 123 wRC+. Frazier has always had good hitting potential but the defense was holding him back. He is so hot now that his defensive issues no longer matter. If Frazier keeps it up, he may be staring in a starting spot at second and Harrison will be looking for a new place to work. If Josh wants to stay in Pittsburgh he has to turn it around, and quickly, or hope Adam returns to May levels of production (.212/.349/.365).
Pirates prospects: The Kevins
Among the group of prospects called up this year, Kevin Kramer and Kevin Newman are the most interesting. The Kevins are likely the future of the middle infield and this may be their chance to prove it. Both had very strong seasons in AAA; 141 wRC+ (Kramer) and 114 wRC+ (Newman). Kramer provides the thump (15 HRs) and Newman provides the speed (28 SB) and defense.
These guys are young and may be the double play combo in Pittsburgh for quite a while. This will be your first shot to see them together. Hopefully, they’ll perform at a high level this September and earn a spot on next year’s 40-man. It’s an especially important month for Newman. He has a legitimate shot at replacing Jordy Mercer. Mercer continues to be perfectly average and is headed into free agency this offseason. If Newman flashes his ability the Pirates may move on from Mercer for the first time in seven years.
Corey Dickerson’s finish
Corey Dickerson was having a very good season until he got hurt. Before the injury, he was one of the Pirates’ best hitters with a 132 wRC+. After the injury in July, Corey has a 17 wRC+. You read that right…one…seven. Unfortunately, this is the MO on Corey, although it’s usually not this extreme. He’s a first-half hitter and a second-half snoozer. If Dickerson continues to struggle, the Pirates will likely start looking for another outfielder. One of the positives of trading away Austin Meadows was that Dickerson was so good and looked like a solid outfielder. It doesn’t look that way right now. However, if Dickerson can return to his early-season ways he may be offered a contract extension.
The rotation finish
The young guys in this rotation have been lowkey very effective. Since the All-Star break, the rotation is sixth in ERA (3.44). They had a prolonged stretch of keeping opposing offenses to three or less runs but the offense didn’t provide any help. Jameson Taillon and Joe Musgrove, in particular, have been very good. They are both approaching career high in innings and it’ll be interesting see if they can continue to be effective this deep in the season.
The more interesting story though will be the development of Chris Archer. His first few starts have been bad and short. There was some bad luck involved but fans were beginning to worry that the Pirates made the wrong move. It’s become apparent that the Pirates have started to change Archer’s approach and pitch usage. Two starts ago, Archer pitched exclusively from the stretch and the two-seamer usage has been upped significantly. It just so happens that two starts ago is also when Archer started to get better. In his last two starts, he’s thrown six innings and allowed three runs or less. Archer didn’t give up any runs until his final inning on Friday’s start. Perhaps September will continue to bring him success, it’ll be must watch baseball regardless.
Trevor Williams and history.
We’ve reached the main event. Maybe watching Pittsburgh scramble for a winning record isn’t worth your time. That’s reasonable, there are plenty of different entertainment options. But what about watching history? In 2015, Jake Arrieta became a pitching god after the All-Star break, 0.74 ERA, 107 IP, .186 wOBA, and 113 Ks. It was the most impressive second half in major league history. That season leaves a bad taste in Pirate fans mouths but now they’ve got their own pitcher chasing that mark. The bearded, twitter winning and unassuming Trevor Williams has a shot at being better than 2015 Jake Arrieta. Through 49.2 IP, Trevor has an ERA of 0.72, .243, and 31 Ks. He’s clearly not as dominant as Arrieta but the point of pitching is to limit runs, end of story.
If watching the extremely likable Trevor chase a record isn’t enough to get you to watch baseball, I’m not sure anything will.
FOOTBALL IS BACK! It’ll be crazy travel for me the rest of the year going back and forth between @Pirates and @Chargers games. I’ve been training hard and have a great support system 🙂 pic.twitter.com/FkDSZKTuQp
— Trevor Williams (@MeLlamoTrevor) September 8, 2018
Gambling this season? Want to try it just to see what it feels like? Go to MyBookie.ag and use promo code ARMCHAIR at checkout. They will match your deposit dollar for dollar. Putting in $100? You’ll now have $200.