Series Preview: Pittsburgh (June 15-17)

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 9: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates warms up in the on deck circle against the Kansas City Royals during interleague play on June 9, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Pirates defeated the Royals 5-3. Both teams wore replica uniforms to honor Negro League teams. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Fresh off a sweep at the hands of their "official" NL rival, the Indians now face off against their "other" rival.

The Indians and Pirates have been playing every season for the past couple years, but in only one series a year. If these teams were in the same league, then perhaps there'd be the sort of rivalry that exists between the two cities' NFL clubs, but there isn't because (a) they reside in different leagues and (b) over the past 50 years, there really hasn't been a time when both clubs were good.

Team in a Box (click to enlarge)

Pittsburgh_june_15-17_medium

This analysis is fairly easy; the Pirates are winning on pitching, defense, and Andrew McCutchen. Besides their center fielder, the Pirates do basically on offense; they rank at the bottom of the league in most offensive categories. You'll get the picture when you see their lineup...

Pos. Player BA OBP SLG PA
LF Alex Presley .240 .264 .357 162
2B Neil Walker .271 .322 .376 197
CF Andrew McCutchen .322 .382 .551 241
DH Garrett Jones .250 .262 .471 145
1B Casey McGehee .224 .319 .344 144
3B Pedro Alvarez .191 .254 .382 197
RF Jose Tabata .233 .292 .342 220
SS Clint Barmes .190 .210 .299 185
C Rod Barajas .232 .295 .387 156

If ever a lineup could be called a one-man show it's this one. McCutchen has a 156 OPS+; no one else who made a plate appearance for the Pirates has an OPS+ over 100. That's just amazing. The message to the pitching staff is obviously going to be: don't let McCutchen beat you. The Pirates have a lot of players that should be entering the primes, such as Walker (age 26), Alvarez (25), and Presley (26), but it just hasn't happened for those guys. Fortunately for the PIrates, 26-year-old McCutchen is having a career year, just after signing a deal that's going to keep him in Pittsburgh through at least 2017.

Projected Starters

Date Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
June 15 James McDonald 2.39 75.1 8.7 2.6 6.3
June 16 A.J. Burnett 3.61 62.1 8.1 2.9 8.4
June 17 Brad Lincoln 3.15 34.1 8.9 2.9

8.1

The Pirates are getting some good performances from two pitchers who going into the year weren't expected to contribute much. A.J. Burnett was exiled from the Yankees last winter, and he's turned his career around. And James McDonald, who had a poor 84 ERA+, now ranks among the league's best pitchers in many categories, including ERA (7th), WHIP (3rd), and H/9 (4th). Brad Lincoln started the season in Pittsburgh bullpen, but was added to the rotation after Charlie Morton got hurt; Lincoln has struggled in each of his last two starts, going just four innings in each of them.

Key Relievers

Throws Pitcher ERA Innings SO/9 BB/9 H/9
Right Joel Hanrahan 2.52 25.0 10.8 4.7 5.0
Right Jason Grilli 1.50 24.0 14.6 4.9 4.9
Right Juan Cruz 2.01 22.1 9.9 4.4 10.1

This is Hanrahan's second full season as closer; he's saved games at about a 90% clip since the beginning of 2011. Grilli was picked up last summer after the Phillies released him, and he's been outstanding since coming to Pittsburgh. Cruz signed a 1-year deal with Pirates this past winter.

On the Shelf

  • RHP Jeff Karstens (shoulder, hip) - 15-day DL
  • RHP Christopher Leroux (pec) - 60-day DL
  • RHP Daniel McCutchen (oblique) - 15-day DL
  • RHP Charlie Morton (elbow) - Out for season (Tommy John surgery)
  • SS Gustavo Nunez (ankle) - 60-day DL

Other than Nunez, the Pittsburgh position players are all healthy. That's kind of scary. Nunez was a Rule 5 pick from the Detroit organization, but he was injured before the season began.

The Pirates are missing two of the pitchers in their Opening Day rotation. Morton injured his elbow at the end of the May, and he likely won't be back in the majors until at least this time next season. Karstens, who had a nice season in 2011, left in his third start of the season and probably will be back in a couple of weeks.

talonk's Almanac

All-Time Record 15-15 (.500)
Runs Scored/Allowed 144 136
Pythagorean Win % .526
Best Record 3-0 2000, 2011
Worst Record 0-3 2001

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