Previewing the Pittsburgh Pirates | The Process Report

Previewing the Pittsburgh Pirates

Losing two of three to the Baltimore Orioles was less than ideal, but the season marches on. The Rays will hit the road over the next week taking on their doppelganger the Pittsburgh Pirates first. Personally, I’m very excited to be able to attend these games as I have wanted to visit PNC Park for many years. Hopefully the boys will bring home some wins, but it doesn’t really matter. Hard to beat being at a world class ballpark to drink in the Rays.

Starting with the arm, the supposed strengths of these two teams, you can see that they’re essentially the same in aggregate value, but they get there a little bit differently. The Rays strike more out, but also walk more and allow harder contact. The Pirates walk very few, get a good number of strikeouts, and are nearly league average in contact allowed.

(All data refers to last 30 days)

Pittsburgh features a couple of former Rays that lead a very good bullpen, and Jameson Taillon has battled back from testicular cancer to remain a very good starter. The bulk of the rest of their rotation is around average, and the very good Gerrit Cole has not been very good, of late. The rest of the pen isn’t much to write home about so if the Rays want to face those guys they should seek to create early leads that force Pittsburgh to shelter their best relievers. The Rays have a similar approach with a couple of good starters, and then a bullpen that is hit or miss. Helping both facets will be the news that Blake Snell will be recalled for the start on Wednesday, which will push Erasmo Ramirez back into the pen where he can parlay his ability to cruise through a lineup once a little better.

The lefty Rivero has been disgusting this year, but he should probably only have been very good as it looks like there is a wide discrepancy between what he allowed on contact, and what he should have. Taillon goes the other way as he has been even better than what he has given up. I’d also expect Jake Faria to be giving up a little more than he has, which could happen as the league continues to build a book on him.

Both teams hit a little better than they pitch, but again we see that they’re neck and neck on the team leaderboard. Again, we see competing philosophies on how to arrive at these similar figures. The Pirates almost never strike out, relatively, while the Rays do so with aplomb. While that stings in the moment it also helps the team make much louder contact. It also means that the Rays pitchers aren’t going to be able to dial up the strikeout at will making it imperative that the team executes defensively.

Andrew McCutchen has turned back into the star that he always was as it looks like he has fixed whatever hole and developed in his swing. He’s scorching right now as the fourth best hitter in the game over the last 30 days. Josh Harrison chips in a little bit more, but those are the main guys to avoid in this lineup. On the other end you can see that Adam Frazier and the once-revered Gregory Polanco have acted as governors keeping the engine from fully hitting it’s stride. Being everyday players doesn’t help, but they’re both capable defenders so it is tough to take them off the field. Meanwhile, the Rays have numerous very good hitters as facing the two worst staffs in the game the last two series has energized the bats. They still have their share of bottom-feeders, but several of them are being pushed to the fringes with reinforcements arriving seemingly daily.

McCutch has blistered a bit more than we should expect, but he is still one of the best players in this series. The guys I would expect to show up a little more than they have would be David Freese and Josh Bell. Both deserve better lines than they currently show, and when going right they give the team some thump that they otherwise can’t boast much of.

From budget constrictions to market size to now pitching and hitting you can see that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays are kin. As fans of a team that has to do it a different way we have so much in common with our brethren in the Steel City so hopefully the Rays can politely take two out of three and keep this thing going a little longer.

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