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Colin Dunlap: Worry With Pirates Has Already Started

By: Colin Dunlap
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

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Get ready.

This is going to be a long summer.

Exactly what has the Pirates’ offense shown in the first half-dozen games that gives you, me, the most blindly loyal or most cynical fan any proclivity that it will get better?

From my vantage, not much.

At 1-5 with four consecutive losses — and on the heels of getting swept in Los Angeles — the Pirates head to Arizona (5-1) on Monday night with what struggles to even be considered a pop-gun offense.

The Pirates are last in Major League Baseball in batting average (.119), on-base percentage (.188), slugging (.159) and OPS (.348). The club also has just 21 hits through six games, which is 13 fewer than any other team in baseball and 50 fewer than Colorado and Arizona, which have played the same amount of games.

The Pirates have driven in eight runs; Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis has driven in 17 — by himself.

The offensive numbers have truly been staggering, which serves as a kick in the pants because of the way the pitching — especially the starting pitching — has executed.

The Pirates’ team ERA sits at 2.82, sixth best in baseball, with opponents hitting .203 off this staff (fourth best in the game). Quite simply, these guys deserve better.

But back to that offense, which has given them virtually nothing.

Just two players, outfielders Starling Marte (.261) and Andrew McCutchen (.238) are above .200 and the Pirates have just five extra-base hits in 176 at-bats with McCutchen’s home run Sunday the lone long ball of the season.

And when the Pirates have had opportunities in critical situations, they frittered them away with elementary tactical errors. A team that lacks the potency of this club simply can’t commit such intellectual errors.

To wit, on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, in a dazzling performance by both Pirates starter A.J. Burnett and Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw, the Pirates squandered two chances in what became a 1-0 loss.

After a first-inning single off Kershaw and being sacrificed to second, Marte inexplicably was thrown out at third, trying to advance there on a ground ball directly in front of him to shortstop.

Teams as offensively challenged as this one can’t do such things.

Later on during Kershaw’s performance — but with the Pirates still down that lone run — Pirates catcher Russell Martin drew a two-out walk in the seventh.

He was bizarrely picked off in a situation manager Clint Hurdle explained after the game was not a running situation.

In short, Martin made a mental error.

Teams as offensively challenged as this one can’t do such things.

After the Pirates lost two of three to start the season to the Cubs, the refrain persisted on my radio show when I said we should all be worried about this offense.

When Cubs pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Travis Wood turned the opening series of 2013 at PNC Park into their own personal showcase, looking like Drysdale and Koufax, I was shouted down. I was told nothing could be truly gauged by that 1-2 start, even as the Pirates scored just six runs and, more deflating, had only seven hits in the first three games.

“Hey Cawwwlin thanks fer takin’ my cawl, but calm dahn. It’s only three games, the Pah-rits are gonna be fine. It’s early,” the callers said.

Then as this club was in the middle of being swept by the Dodgers, again I relayed the worry that I had in this offense. I recited the numbers, spoke of how there were no true signs of this ending, talked about the ineffectiveness coupled with the ineptitude.

What was I met with?

“Hey Cawwwlin thanks fer takin’ my cawl, but calm dahn. It ain’t even 10 games yet, the Pah-rits are gonna be fine. It’s early,” the callers said.

OK, cool.

I’ll make you a deal.

You worry about this team when you feel comfortable doing so.

You set your own threshold as to when you are confident with some concern setting in and I’ll do the same.

I’m going to start worrying about the Pirates now — after just six games.

Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com