The Problems With the Pirates and How To Fix Them

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Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton, right, watches his team play during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Boston Red Sox Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, in Bradenton, Fla. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Pittsburgh Pirates have played six games so far in this young season. They currently hold the 4th spot in the NL Central, with a record 2-4. The Bucs have had some success this year, even in games they lost. They’ve been outscored by opponents 30-23 so far. The problems with the Pirates are clear, but how do you fix them?

They definitely show heart, and won’t go down without a fight; sometimes. They have three really big problems that they must fix if they want to win some games. The season is already shortened with the ongoing pandemic and Pittsburgh now has just 54 games left to figure it out.

Seems like a long time, right? Well, it’s not really. 60-games will breeze by quickly. The season is 10% of the way completed at this point. If the Pirates aren’t careful, they could ruin a perfect opportunity to get a postseason spot.

Hitting

In the six games the Bucs have played, they’ve struck out 41 times. They’re biggest issue at the plate is discipline. The Pirates constantly swing at the first pitch, and they swing at pitches well out of the zone.

If they just work the pitch count up with a solid at-bat, it wouldn’t matter if they get an out or not. A good at-bat doesn’t necessarily mean the batter reaches base, so long they get the pitcher to work. The Pirates do neither, and it shows, as the team’s overall batting average is .194.

They also rely too much on one player. Colin Moran has been crushing it for Pittsburgh lately. But the luck has been running dry. Moran leads the Bucs in every offensive category. His performance has been great, but the Bucs need find the other piece to their offensive puzzle.

2019 All-Star Josh Bell has been silent so far. Bell is batting a mere .174. He is the face of the franchise and he needs to step it up before time runs out.

The other thing the Pirates don’t do well is hit with runners on base. They’ve gotten lucky, but it’s rare. The Bucs constantly leave runners stranded, or rely on walks to score runs. That will not get the job done at any level of baseball. When the Pirates have bases loaded with no outs, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll leave them on base.

The moral of the story is, they blow tons of opportunities offensively. They would be a .500 team if they could just hit and remain patient at the plate.

Pitching

The most frustrating part of the Pirates’ games are the blown leads. Game one of the Milwaukee series is the perfect example. The Bucs had a four-run lead going into the 9th, ready to close out the game, but unreliable bullpen arms ruined the would be celebration.

Only one starting pitcher has a win, Mitch Keller. Their number one starter, Joe Musgrove is 0-2 with a 4.44 ERA. Granted he does have 15 strikeouts, but that means nothing without a win.

Manager Derek Shelton is somewhat to blame for the blown leads. Pirates’ fans should cut him a break because it is his first managing job in the big leagues. However, his decision-making lately has been questionable. Going back to Monday night, when the Pirates lost the 5-1 lead.

How To Fix It

The Pirates could be a .500 team, however they are victims of their own mistakes. Pretty avoidable mistakes. From the inconsistent hitting, to the undependable bullpen. Pittsburgh has a lot to work on if they want to make it far in this shortened season.

Shelton is a former hitting coach, and has to talk to his players about holding off on bad pitches. They’ve only walked 15 times, and with the amount of time the Bucs have seen a 3-2 count, it’s not a lot.

There’s an easy fix to this problem though. Spend money in the coming offseason, and make some trades at the deadline next month. They must bring a winning culture into Pittsburgh, and Ben Cherington might be able to do it. Cherington has had success in his career, and fans should trust him.

There is still time, but time goes by fast. Right now, time is not on their side. The Bucs need to figure it out quickly or else they’ll be stuck at two wins for the remainder of the year.

Follow me on Twitter @AnthonyBaamonde.

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