By: Noah Wright
Let's be honest. Did anybody really think that the season would be going the way it has for the Bucs? This season has been full up its up’s and downs, and a whole lot of both have been extremely unexpected. So how weird has this season for the Bucs been so far?
- All the injuries:
Now the Pirates were ready for an injury or two, but many of their key players have been on the IL at one point or another during the season. Right now, Jameson Taillon has been on the IL since early May. Taillon was expected to lead this rotation, and rightfully so. He had a great season in 2018 with a 3.20 ERA, 3.46 FIP, and 1.178 WHIP in 191 innings, and hasn’t had any large arm related injuries since his Tommy John surgery back in 2014. Another arm that was expected to play a large role has also been on the IL. Trevor Williams has missed nearly a month this season. Last season, Williams had a 3.11 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 1.130 WHIP through 170 and two thirds innings. One of the Pirates’ best batters from last season, Corey Dickerson, spent nearly 2 months on the IL. Jordan Lyles, who got off to a hot start to 2019, is also on the IL.
- Steven Brault is currently the best starter pitcher on the team:
Now it’s not like Brault has been a great pitcher all this season, but after some injuries and a hot streak, Brault has, by default, become the best pitcher on the team. Sure his 4.40 ERA, 4.91 FIP, or 1.553 WHIP shout “ace”, his most recent starts have been extremely promising. Through his past 27 and a third innings, or 5 starts, Brault has an impressive 1.65 ERA, .238/.325/.317 opponent batting line, and solid 3.59 FIP.
- The extremely ineffective bullpen:
Pirates fans had an extremely good reason to be proud of this bullpen. Richard Rodriguez, Kyle Crick, Keone Kela, and Felipe Vazquez made a formidable backend of the pen. As good as those 4 sound, half of them have been both ineffective and injured. Richard Rodriguez had came off a season where he pitched to a 2.47 ERA, 2.60 FIP, and 1.067 WHIP. His strikeout rate was elite at 11.4, while having an extremely good 2.4 BB/9. Plus he gave up just 5 long balls in 69 and a third innings. This season, Rich-Rod has seen his strikeout rate plummet to 6.4 K/9, and has seen his BB/9 to 4.8. Plus home runs have been extreme problem. He has given up 9 home runs this season in just 28 and a third innings. Kela on the other hand is currently on the 60-day. But before he headed on the IL, he had struggled to a 4.36 ERA, 5.65 FIP, and 1.286 WHIP through 11 and two thirds innings. All those are a far cry from his 2018 numbers split between the Rangers and Bucs last season (3.29 ERA, 2.97 FIP, and 1.096 WHIP). Like Rich-Rod, he has also seen a large decrease in K’s (11.4 K/9 to 8.5 K/9), and home runs (.9 HR/9, to 2.3 HR/9).
- Josh Bell:
Now all of the unexpectedness of this season hasn’t been bad. For example, 1B Josh Bell. Bell had come off a so-so 2018 where he had a .261/.537/.411 line with just 12 long balls in 583 plate appearances. I thought he would see an increase in power. Afterall he had 26 home runs, a .466 slugging, and a .211 ISO in his 2017 rookie season. I estimated he would improve some to like a .270/.350/.460 line, 20 home runs, but Bell has easily been one of the NL’s premier offensive forces. Through 302 plate appearances, Bell has an extremely impressive .323/.391/.658 line. He already has nearly as many home runs than I predicted, currently sitting a 19. He also has a very good 173 OPS+.
- Bryan Reynolds:
If I were to tell you the Pirates most consistent outfielder was Bryan Reynolds, you’d think I’d be joking. But Reynolds has been one of the most surprising parts of 2019. Through 180 PA’s, Reynolds has a .364/.417/.570 batting line, 5 long balls, 15 doubles, a 160 OPS+ and 161 wRC+. Defensively, Reynolds has been beyond standout with 3 DRS (4 in LF), .4 UZR (.6 in LF), and .1 dWAR. Although his Reyonlds will not sustain his .454 BABIP, he’ll probably still be an asset to the Pirates. Probably something like a .280/.350/.470 hitter, 15 home runs, good 2B totals, and solid defense.
I don’t know how the rest of this season will play out, but I honestly do believe that if everything went according to plan+Bell’s breakout, the Bucs would currently be in a spot of contention. In the month of June, they’ve scored more runs per game than the Dodgers, and about the same as the division rival Cubs.