The case for the Pittsburgh Pirates


daveynin on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

A shot of PNC Park on September 6, 2009. The Pirates defeated the Cardinals that day 6-5.

With the Major League Baseball season a quarter of the way over, let’s look at where our Pittsburgh Pirates stand in the National League.

After Pittsburgh’s 1-6 start to the season, it was looking like winning games would be a rare occurrence this year. Star rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes injured his wrist on a foul ball in the second game of the season. Stars in years past like Gregory Polanco had made a case for the worst player in baseball, hitting under .165 after the first ten games.

After two straight losses to the Reds giving up eleven or more runs, the Pirates started to catch fire. From April 7 to April 27, the Pirates won 11 out of 16 and put themselves right outside of first place in the NL Central. They began getting massive contributions from unlikely heroes like Phillip Evans and Collin Moran.

However, that’s where the success stories stop, for now at least. In the month of May, the Pirates went an abysmal 8-20. Major contributors Phillip Evans and Collin Moran got injured. During this stretch, however, second baseman Adam Frazier began having a carrier year. Frazier, so far this year, has slashed .329/.343/.420 with two home runs and 24 RBIs and leads all of baseball in hits.

Despite the struggles, Pittsburgh is not completely out of the playoff picture. The Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers are in a bloody battle for first place, leaving the Pirates 11.5 games out of first place. With the dominant teams beating up on each other, all the Pirates have to do is string together a few more streaks like they had in April. Here are the main keys for the Pirates to remain in contention going forward.

Hold on to stars

One thing everyone knows the Pirates organization loves to do is trade away stars for prospects. However, these deals have never really worked out in the past. In 2018, Pittsburgh shipped Gerrit Cole to Houston for Joe Musgrove, Colin Moran, Michael Feliz and a prospect. Musgrove was mediocre at best in Pittsburgh, and he himself ended up being shipped to San Diego where he became a star. Colin Moran has been an average first baseman. Michael Feliz has been so bad that manager Derek Shelton has resulted in pitching position players over him. All the while Cole has become arguably the best pitcher in the American League.

It is common knowledge that Adam Frazier and closer Richard Rodriguez are on the trading block. However, if we hold onto these stars instead of trading them away, the Pirates could end up securing a playoff spot.

Consistency in Mitch Keller

Mitch Keller has to be the biggest disappointment for Pittsburgh this year. After three years of lighting up the minor leagues, Keller cannot pitch in a Major League Baseball game. In 12 starts this year, Keller is averaging only four innings per start with an ERA over seven. His best start of the year came on May 4, when he gave up two hits and no runs over 5.2 innings. If Keller could have the confidence to go and pitch as he did on the fourth, he would allow the Pirates to win more baseball games.