Know Your Foe #6: Pirates Hope Rockies' Staff Can Help Awaken Their Bats From Winter Slumber

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 12: Jeff Karstens #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes a throw to first against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning at Dodger Stadium on April 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Things are bad for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense right now. Real bad. It may or may not get any better this week with Colorado’s improving, but still subpar, rotation coming to town. Either way, it’s almost to the point where there’s nowhere to go but up for Clint Hurdle's club. Consider this: the Bucs have scored just 30 runs this season. The Rockies put up more than half of that in one game. The 30 runs works out to exactly two runs per game. TWO. Luckily for them, they’ve allowed less than three runs per game, so at 6-9, the Pirates are still doing a fairly good job of carefully treading ground until their bats can awaken (if they ever do).

Andrew McCutchen

#22 / Center Field / Pittsburgh Pirates





Oct 10, 1986

2012 - Andrew McCutchen .351 .403 .404

The one guy in the Pirates’ lineup that you absolutely cannot let beat you is Andrew McCutchen. While the rest of the team has been average, and in most cases, god-awful offensively (two full-time starters have an OPS+ in the negative – more on that shortly), McCutchen has been very solid to this point, posting a 132 OPS+. While he has yet to homer, McCutchen has three doubles and four stolen bases. His .351 batting average, however, is supplemented by a .400 BABIP, which means that at least some regression is due. Either way, I wouldn’t be giving him a whole lot of good pitches to hit if I were a Rockies pitcher.

Another reason to think that McCutchen may regress a little bit in terms of simply hitting the ball is that he has absolutely NOBODY around him. Nobody. I mean, Garrett Jones has a 102 OPS+, but he’s getting part-time at-bats and hasn’t drawn a walk in 33 plate appearances thus far in 2012. Aside from McCutchen and Jones, everyone else is below average in terms of OPS+, and some guys are on a pace to be historically bad (SSS notwithstanding). There are four main offenders, all of whom are in their starting lineup:

  • Jose Tabata. Tabata is hitting .170/.220/.191, good for a 19 OPS+. He's just 23 years old, and will likely improve at some point during the season. He's a good young talent and is worth letting him work through his issues.
  • Pedro Alvarez. Although he's tied for the club lead in homers with 2, Alvarez's slugging percentage sits at .270. To make matters worse, he has struck out 16 times and walked just once in 38 plate appearances. The 25-year-old former high first-rounder might need some time in AAA. He too has had some horrendous BABIP luck (.105). However, his strikeout rate is alarming to the point where it almost erases that.
  • Rod Barajas. More bad luck, as the Pirates' catcher is hitting a robust .115 on balls in play. His strikeout and walk rates are better than that of Alvarez, so there's little doubt that his -16 OPS+ will improve.
  • Clint Barmes. Clint is just not a very good offensive player, and that is fully evident now that he's not playing half of his games at Coors Field, and to a lesser extent, Minute Maid Park. While his OPS+ isn't going to stay at -19 forever, Clint also hasn't drawn a single walk in 49 plate appearances, and has struck out 12 times. Barmey's also getting up there in age, so time is not on his side.

The Pirates have been fortunate enough to receive some solid pitching, both in the rotation as well as in the bullpen. Five of their starters have been average to above-average so far, and the one that isn’t (Jeff Karstens) is on the DL. Note: sadly, that means less Karstens Face. Kevin Correia leads the team with a 241 ERA+ across two starts, while Erik Bedard has posted a 135 ERA+ in four (although he has allowed some traffic). AJ Burnett is the big wildcard here, as he has only made one start but looked very good – he went seven shutout innings against the Cardinals,allowing just three hits and two walks while striking out seven.

Former Rockie Jason Grilli has been masterful out of the ‘pen, striking out ten and walking just one in 6.1 innings thus far. Juan Cruz had been closing games for the Bucs while Joel Hanrahan was down, racking up a couple of saves while tossing 6.1 scoreless innings. Hanrahan has since returned, and while he has saved a couple of games of his own, he looked rather shaky yesterday against St. Louis, issuing two walks but using his power fastball (which can, at times, reach triple digits) to get a couple of key strikeouts to finish the game.

Probable starters and more after the jump…

Probable starters (which should be taken with a grain of salt due to the postponement of tonight’s game):

Tomorrow: Jamie Moyer (1-2, 2.55 ERA) vs. Kevin Correia (1-0, 1.50 ERA)

Wednesday (Game 1): Juan Nicasio (1-0, 6.19 ERA) vs. James McDonald (0-1, 3.45 ERA)

Wednesday (Game 2): Jhoulys Chacin (0-1, 4.80 ERA) vs. Charlie Morton (0-1, 3.60 ERA)

Pittsburgh Pirates Roster

pitchers # Pos.
Erik Bedard 45 P
A.J. Burnett 34 P
Kevin Correia 29 P
Juan Cruz 37 P
Jason Grilli 39 P
Joel Hanrahan 52 P
Brad Lincoln 32 P
James McDonald 53 P
Evan Meek 47 P
Charlie Morton 50 P
Chris Resop 30 P
Tony Watson 44 P
catchers # Pos.
Rod Barajas 26 C
Michael McKenry 55 C
infielders # Pos.
Pedro Alvarez 24 3B
Clint Barmes 12 SS
Josh Harrison 5 3B
Garrett Jones 46 1B
Casey McGehee 14 1B
Yamaico Navarro 36 3B
Neil Walker 18 2B
outfielders # Pos.
Andrew McCutchen 22 CF
Nate McLouth 2 CF
Alex Presley 7 LF
Jose Tabata 31 RF


Pittsburgh Pirates Injuries


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Kevin Correia oblique 04/23/2012


Player Injury Type Injury Date
Jeff Karstens shoulder 04/18/2012

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Leroux pectoral 04/04/2012
Gustavo Nunez ankle 02/20/2012

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