PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — We’re one month into the season now and it’s fair to start making concrete opinions regarding this team.
One thing’s for sure. The Pirates have had some struggles, but they should be pretty happy with where they’re at through one month of the season.
A 10-12 record is nothing to scoff at. The Pirates survived the toughest April schedule in baseball and are just a couple games under .500.
As Jon over at McEffect points out, the Buccos’ opponents combined to go 90-68 in the month of April, which is a .570 winning percentage. The schedule will ease up as we enter May and, hopefully, that will help spur higher run production — which has been the team’s main problem through one month of the season — and more wins.
There’s some reason to believe the offensive woes will change, as several bats are heating up. More specifically, Pedro Alvarez’s bat is heating up.
Just a couple weeks ago Alvarez had an average of .065. Now he’s up over .200 and climbing. He’s showing off his power with five home runs, including three in his last six games.
Alvarez has hits in seven of his last 10 games, four of which were multi-hit games. He was expected to be a platoon guy to start the year — starting mostly against right-handed pitchers — but has performed well enough to force Pirates manager Clint Hurdle to start him on an everyday basis.
In fact, Alvarez’s last homer was a fastball off a left-handed pitcher. Platoon no more.
If he continues to perform at this level he’ll continue to move up in the lineup and, eventually, land in the cleanup spot. That is the best-case scenario for the Buccos, as he’ll then be in position to drive home the likes of Alex Presley and Andrew McCutchen, who have been very effective at getting on base so far this season.
Elsewhere in the lineup, Garrett Jones has been solid (.265 avg., 3 HRs, 8 RBIs) and Casey McGehee has provided pop at times. Michael McKenry has been surprisingly good at catcher both defensively and offensively, which has aided a slow start for fellow catcher Rod Barajas.
You’d like to see a little more from Neil Walker, Jose Tabata and Clint Barmes, but it’s still early in the season and as other bats improve they will have chances to see better pitches.
The starting pitching staff is giving the lineup time to work out the kinks with quality starts seemingly every night.
With little run support, Erik Bedard has just a 1-4 record, but his 2.48 ERA and 26 strikeouts to just 12 walks shows he has been in control.
So have the other starters. Bedard, A.J. Burnett, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and James McDonald all have a sub-3.00 ERA.
The bullpen has been equally as impressive. Juan Cruz and Jason Grilli have been dominant, Joel Hanrahan is 4 for 4 in saves and Brad Lincoln has posted a 1.29 ERA in seven innings since his recent call-up.
All told, the Pirates seem to have a great pitching foundation, which is giving the lineup time to get going. And recently, that lineup has been more effective.
Pirates bats produced 17 runs in four games against Atlanta. Dating back to the Colorado double-header, the Buccos are averaging nearly four runs a game.
It’s not a ton, but it’s an improvement on the first few weeks of the season.
There’s reason to look at the month of April as a success.
But as we know, the positives in April will only be viewed as such by building upon them in May.
Chris Gates | Bucs Blog