June 21, 2024

Returning home from a challenging California road trip, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves reflecting on a disappointing series against the Oakland A’s, where they were swept in three games.

Not only did the Pirates suffer defeat in each game, but they also struggled offensively, managing to score only three runs throughout the entire series. Their lineup faced tough pitching from Oakland’s trio of starting pitchers: Joe Boyle (with an ERA of 7.06), Alex Wood (with an ERA of 6.59), and Ross Stripling (with an ERA of 4.98) at the time of their starts against the Pirates.

Throughout the series, the Pirates left a notable 20 runners on base and failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities, going 0 for 14 with runners in scoring position. This lack of offensive production compounded their woes.

The sweep by the Oakland A’s, a team with only 12 wins prior to the series, was the final blow in what had already been a dismal end to April, extending into the beginning of May.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Have Few Reasons To Keep Paul Skenes Down

Reflecting back to April 15, when they held a promising 11-5 record, the Pirates have since experienced a significant downturn, going 3-13 in their last 16 games. This slump has seen them plummet to last place in the National League Central standings, now sitting at 14-18.

During this rough stretch, the Pirates have struggled to generate offense, averaging just 1.93 runs per game and accumulating a run differential of minus 41. This decline underscores their recent struggles, highlighting the challenges they face as they aim to turn their season around.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ offensive struggles are evident in several key statistical categories:

– They rank 23rd in team batting average, hitting .227 collectively.
– In terms of team OPS (On-base Plus Slugging percentage), they rank 26th with a .646 OPS.
– Their run production ranks 24th in the league, having scored only 118 runs.
– When runners are on base, they have the 26th lowest batting average at .224.
– Their batting average with runners in scoring position is also low, ranking 26th at .205.

One particularly concerning statistic is their frequency of at-bats with runners in scoring position, ranking eighth highest in the league with 273 such at-bats. Despite this opportunity, their inability to capitalize often leaves runners stranded.

Adding to their offensive woes is their high strikeout rate, totaling 300 strikeouts thus far, placing them among the top five teams with the most strikeouts in MLB. Despite swinging for the fences, evidenced by their 24 home runs (ranking 26th in baseball), the Pirates struggle to convert these swings into runs, often leaving runners on base.

Individually, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offensive struggles are reflected in their players’ statistics, with few exceptions. Among players with at least 40 at-bats, Connor Joe leads the team with a .283 batting average and an OPS of .890. However, no other player with that many at-bats is hitting above .265 or has an OPS better than .745. Notably, six regular batters—Jared Triolo, Edward Olivares, Rowdy Tellez, Andrew McCutchen, Jack Suwinski, and Henry Davis—are all batting below .220, with the last three players hovering between .165 and .188.

The performance of key players in the lineup is also concerning. In the past six games, Bryan Reynolds has seen his average drop from .270 to .248 with just two RBIs. Ke’Bryan Hayes has only recorded one home run and 10 RBIs so far this season. Oneil Cruz has struggled to get on base, with a .288 OBP, hasn’t hit a home run since April 13, and has accumulated 46 strikeouts, tying with Cincinnati’s Will Benson for the second-highest total in MLB.

Paul Skenes' anticipated Pirates call-up should happen soon

Given these struggles, the Pirates are looking ahead to their series against the Colorado Rockies as an opportunity to turn things around. The Rockies’ pitching staff has allowed 178 earned runs, the most in baseball, with a collective WHIP of 1.61, ranking last in MLB. This matchup presents a chance for the Pirates’ struggling lineup to face a vulnerable pitching staff, with the hope of sparking their offense.

Despite the challenges, Saturday’s game offers a unique promotional event with a “Mitch Keller Jedi bobblehead” giveaway for a Star Wars-themed “May the 4th Be With You” game at PNC Park. With a nod to former Air Force standout Paul Skenes, there’s even speculation about calling him up as a hitter due to his impressive batting record before transferring to LSU, though this remains a humorous aside rather than a serious consideration.

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