Prior to the season, I wrote a series of three articles outlining nine keys to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 season. The Pirates were largely unsuccessful so now is a good time to take a look at what keys they missed that led to such a disappointing season.
9. Acquire and Use a Fifth Starter — Missed
The Pirates did, in fact, use a fifth starter. Unfortunately, Jordan Lyles did not have enough success. Lyles had a great first eight starts, recording a 1.89 ERA. However, his 20 starts after that saw a 5.19 ERA and only two and a half strikeouts for every walk. Lyles was traded mid-season to the Brewers in July.
Injuries then plagued the Pirates and Steven Brault took on the fifth starter role. He had a stretch of great starts. However, his overall 5.07 ERA on the season was not good enough to help the Pirates win.
So while the Pirates used a fifth starter, it was foreseen at the time they needed to acquire someone better than Lyles and Brault. When they did not fans were discouraged, but not surprised, by the poor results.
8. Make the Payroll Respectable — Missed
In this case, the Pirates did the opposite. When they traded outfielder Corey Dickerson and Lyles at the deadline, they actually saw their payroll drop. The only team currently with a lower payroll are the Tampa Bay Rays.
Moreover, the Rays are in line for a playoff spot partly because of players received from the Pirates in the Chris Archer trade. The Pirates will finish the season with a $72 million payroll. They have the lowest payroll in their division by $56 million and the results of this are pretty clear in the Pirates record.
7. Corey Dickerson Must Have A Better Second Half — Push
This one, ultimately, did not matter. Unfortunately, Dickerson was hurt most of the year and then traded at the July deadline. He did have a decent second half for Philadelphia, batting .293 with his new club.
6. The Cole Deal Becomes a Win — Missed
This one also went the opposite way. Gerrit Cole is once again in the American League Cy Young race and the only pitcher standing in his way is teammate Justin Verlander.
Meanwhile, on the Pirates side of the trade, pitcher Joe Musgrove started out well, but finished poorly. His first seven starts saw him pitching to a 2.63 ERA. However, his next 25 starts saw his ERA rise to a 4.44 ERA, winning just nine games in the process.
Another pitcher acquired in that trade was reliever Michael Feliz. He also was not nearly good enough to make him a worthwhile trade return.
Colin Moran, the third piece in the trade, finished 13th in the league among third basemen with 80 RBI. However, he had only 13 home runs. That ranked him tied for 30th in the league.
Overall in 2019, the Cole trade went more in the Houston Astros favor than it already was.
5. Fundamentals — Missed
The Pirates finished 26th in the league in fielding percentage and 25th in errors. Enough said.
4. Vazquez, Kela and Rodriguez — Met
The Pirates needed Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela and Richard Rodriguez to be as lock down of a bullpen as Jared Hughes, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were in 2013. The Pirates cannot lay the blame on these three.
Vazquez logged another year of being one of the best closers in the league. He was then arrested for a bunch of terrible things I don’t want to get into. However, that cannot be blamed on the Pirates. Vazquez will now face the consequences for his actions.
Kela also had a great season, currently sitting at a 2.20 ERA. Furthermore, Rodriguez logged a serviceable season, especially compared to other mid-inning bullpen guys around the league.
3. The Prospects Step Up — Partly Met
Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman were two of the Pirates best players. Unfortunately, Cole Tucker and Mitch Keller have been two of their worst.
Reynolds competing for the batting title all year and is still batting .314 despite some September struggles. He also has is third on the team in home runs and fourth in RBI, despite only playing 134 games. Newman is also batting in the 300s with a .308 batting average.
However, Tucker has more strikeouts than hits in his 147 at bats this year. Furthermore, Keller spot started to the tune of a 7.13 ERA and 1-5 record. He logged only one Quality Start in 11 tries.
Also, it remains troubling that the Pirates succeeding prospects are in their mid to late 20s, while other teams have stars at the age of 21 and 22.
2. Bell and Kang Power Up — Met
Despite Jung Ho Kang being one of the worst human beings on Earth, I have to mark this one a success because Josh Bell had one of the best seasons in Pirates recent history.
Bell will finish the season with 37 homers and 116 RBI. He will also finish with an OPS of .936. Bell was on pace for many more RBI, before ending his season on Sept. 13 with a groin injury.
1. Pocket Rockets — Miss
Neither of the ‘could be aces’ performed well this season. Chris Archer has been terrible to the point that the Pirates may buy out the remaining years of his contract. Even though injuries ruined Jameson Taillon’s season, again, he was not performing all that well anyway.
Neither of these pitchers will ever become aces for the Pirates, and it is tough to continue to watch the Pirates have a conveyor belt of failing arms, especially when they have had pitchers move on to other teams and perform at a very high level.
Overall, the Pirates reached two and half of the keys they needed to succeed. It’s no wonder the Pirates only won a little over four of every 10 games played. It can be seen as an absolute failure of a season, and there is not much hope moving forward.
If the Pirates do not make some major changes, they will see a decrease in attendance and more negative fan interaction.
PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates’ Colin Moran (19) celebrates his three-run home run with Adam Frazier (26) and Jason Martin (51) during the 10th inning against the Washington Nationals, Friday, April 12, 2019, in Washington. Photo courtesy of Nick Wass/Associated Press.
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