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Pittsburgh Pirates Series Preview: Don’t forget to touch first

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Things haven’t been going great for the Pirates lately.

MLB: Game One-Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re wondering why you’ve heard of the Pirates, it’s because they were involved in a play that we didn’t even see in the mid-2000s in Kansas City when Will Craig, their first baseman, simply could have touched first but instead chose not to and it cost the Pirates two runs. Maybe it’s not fair for me to rag on them this much given that I’m writing about the Royals, who are having their best season in four years and are still a game under .500, but I’m okay with that. The last time the Royals and Pirates met, the Pirates were playing well, having won eight of 12, but this time the story is a little different with them having lost 10 of 13, with two of the wins coming against a really bad Rockies team.

There are some interesting parts to this team. I think Jacob Stallings is a really solid catcher and Bryan Reynolds is a guy I’m hoping the Royals try to acquire at some point soon. They also have Ke’Bryan Hayes, who is coming back from injury and thankfully for the Royals isn’t eligible to come off until after this series. He’s a stud. Colin Moran is a solid hitter as well, but he’s on the injured list as well. And Adam Frazier is having a really good year at the top of the order. But between the injuries and the issues with the rest, it’s just not enough right now. That’s sort of how their pitching is with JT Brubaker and Tyler Anderson having solid years at the top of the rotation, but everyone else is pretty meh at best. They are getting a couple nice seasons out of some bullpen arms, which likely means some trades coming since the Pirates aren’t going anywhere this year.

Royals vs. Pirates Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Pirates
Category Royals Pirates
Winning % .490 .385
Team wRC+ 88 83
Team xFIP 4.29 4.25
Run Differential -23 -74
H2H Wins 1 1
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Bryan Reynolds, 1.8

Pirates Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Adam Frazier 2B 226 .333 .394 .471 7.5% 10.6% 141 1.5
Ben Gamel LF 50 .222 .280 .333 8.0% 28.0% 70 0.0
Bryan Reynolds CF 208 .287 .389 .478 13.0% 22.1% 142 1.8
Jacob Stallings C 147 .234 .333 .422 12.2% 21.1% 112 1.1
Greogry Polanco RF 155 .221 .297 .382 10.3% 29.7% 87 0.0
Erik Gonzalez 3B 168 .213 .250 .288 4.8% 16.1% 51 -0.2
Will Craig 1B 58 .241 .293 .333 6.9% 34.5% 72 -0.1
Wilmer Difo DH 81 .237 .284 .368 6.2% 28.4% 81 -0.2
Kevin Newman SS 186 .208 .237 .258 3.8% 5.9% 38 -0.2

Pirates Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Michael Perez C 64 .121 .203 .293 7.8% 37.5% 35 -0.3
Cole Tucker INF/OF 11 .182 .182 .273 0.0% 36.4% 22 -0.1
Ka'ai Tom OF 62 .217 .371 .370 16.1% 17.7% 112 0.1

Pirates Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Richard Rodriguez 21 22.1 3 1 21.5% 2.5% 1.61 4.64 1.0
Kyle Crick 15 14.0 0 0 25.9% 14.8% 1.93 5.07 0.1
David Bednar 22 20.0 0 0 34.2% 7.6% 2.70 2.78 0.2

Probable Starting Pitchers

May 31 - Chad Kuhl vs. Mike Minor, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Chad Kuhl 4 15.2 0 1 18.4% 21.1% 6.32 6.64 -0.5
Mike Minor 10 54.0 3 2 26.8% 9.2% 4.83 4.05 0.7

Chad Kuhl has been on the injured list since mid-April with shoulder discomfort but is set to come off for this start against the Royals. He’s had a brutal start to this season, but he’s been a solid starter in the past with a career 4.36 ERA in 359.1 innings over 72 games. There’s nothing wrong with that in the back of a rotation, so if he can get back to that, the Pirates can add another solid arm to their rotation that might help them a little bit in a trade. He might remind you a bit of Brad Keller as a sinker/slider guy, but he’s gotten more strikeouts in his career. He throws around 94 with the sinker and his slider can be legitimately nasty with a 36.5 percent whiff rate this season. The issue is that he’s hung it a bit too much in his limited action this year and allowed a .556 SLG. When it’s on, though, he’ll get a lot of swings and misses. Historically, lefties have had their way with him and that’s extra true this year in a small sample with a .296/.432/.778 line against him in 37 plate appearances. He’s also historically been a guy you either hit early or you just wait a bit and you can get him late. This could be a good game for Carlos Santana with his patience and Kuhl’s struggles vs. lefties.

Mike Minor got hit hard by the White Sox in Kansas City during that losing streak, but since then has been much better. In those three starts, he has a 3.00 ERA with 24 strikeouts and six walks in 18 innings. He was able to work around a lot of trouble against the Rays in his last start, which sort of made it tough to get deep in the game, but he’s really had that fastball working to get swings and misses after struggling to do that early in the year. Minor had a rough game against these Pirates when he was given a huge lead and still couldn’t qualify for the win. He’s pitching better now, though. While they hit around a lefty a bit yesterday, they don’t typically do much against them.

June 1 - Wil Crowe vs. Brady Singer, 7:10pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Wil Crowe 7 27.0 0 3 20.2% 12.1% 5.67 4.94 -0.1
Brady Singer 10 47.2 2 4 23.1% 9.0% 4.91 4.09 0.8

The Pirates picked up Wil Crowe from the Nationals in the Josh Bell trade this winter, and he’s definitely struggled a bit in the big leagues after struggling a lot in a short audition last summer. He’s been extremely hittable and has sort of been all over the place. We’re familiar with that sort of pitcher in Kansas City, and we know how ugly it can get. He is sort of interesting. He has a decent looking four-seam fastball that sits 93-95 and he has a slider with some impressive spin. His changeup has also been pretty good. He doesn’t really feel like more than a three or four starter at his peak, but that’s very useful to have. He has a big reverse platoon split, which means that the Royals might need guys like Whit Merrifield and Salvador Perez to step up to get the big hit when they need it. He’s been absolutely brutal with men on and in his six starts, he’s gone more than five innings just once.

Brady Singer is coming off a real rough one against the Rays when he couldn’t get out of the third inning before the Royals were down big and the game was essentially over. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster for him this season. He’s had some outstanding starts and then just some real stinkers. It looked like he had figured something out in his last couple starts, getting into the seventh inning in both and limiting walks while maintaining strikeouts, but then he just couldn’t command much of anything in Tampa. This Pirates offense is one that he should be able to handle without many issues, so he can prove something with a big start in this one.

Prediction

I like the way the Royals are playing right now and while Minor and Singer can both be wild cards on the mound, I’m thinking this is a good series and the Royals sweep it to take the short season series with the Pirates and work their way back above .500.

Poll

How does this short series turn out?

This poll is closed

  • 75%
    Royals sweep a struggling Pirates team.
    (97 votes)
  • 24%
    Royals and Pirates swap futility stories and split.
    (31 votes)
  • 0%
    Pirates stop any good will in KC with a sweep.
    (1 vote)
129 votes total Vote Now