In the National League CentraLOL, the Pirates' 26-31 record is only 3.5 games back of the lead.

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – In any other division in baseball, 26-31 would be good for, on average, a 10 game deficit in the standings. In the National League CentraLOL, it’s still last in the division, but only 3.5 games back. Is that a sign that despite all the obstacles thrown their way, the Pirates are making the best of a bad situation by staying close? Or is it a sign that they’re at the bottom of a very bad division?

Maybe it’s a bit of both.

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Regardless, here are up-to-date Pirates Power Rankings:.

T-25) Phil Gosselin (recalled from Indianapolis) 4-for-31 with 7 Ks. 0-for-2 with strikeout since being recalled. What else do you  need to know?

T-25) Max Moroff (recalled from Indianapolis) – The odd dichotomy of Moroff being the International League’s home run leader but striking out half the time at the Major League level continues.

T-25) Jhan Marinez (no change) – Marinez was victimized by Josh Bell’s defense early in the week and helped by it on Sunday, but the common thread is that he put the leadoff runner on base in each outing.

T-22) Daniel Hudson (-1) – With Antonio Bastardo still rehabbing, Hudson – who pitched two scoreless innings this week but sprinkled a pair of walks into Friday night’s outing – still holds the title of Most Overpaid Arm.

T-22) Chad Kuhl (+1) – Kuhl slowed his descent out of the Pirates’ rotation with a 5-inning no-decision against the Diamondbacks, but it took him 88 pitches to navigate those innings, giving up as many walks (3) as hits. Until he learns to harness his power – he’s capable of hitting 96mph on the gun but is a better pitcher when he sits at 93ish – the debate is going to continue internally about whether he’s headed toward the Indianapolis rotation or the bullpen upon Jameson Taillon’s return in a couple of weeks.

20) Johnny Barbato (-1) – Barbato ‘s sloppy 11th on Wednesday – including giving up a Nick Ahmed home run – temporarily put Arizona in position to win. His HR rate is second worst to only Tony Watson’s out of the bullpen, which does little to calm nerves when he climbs on the mound in anything not resembling a low-leverage situation..

19) John Jaso (+2) – Over the past week, he’s 5-for-15 in part-time duty, which is exactly what the Pirates need from Jaso. His bounce back after a horrid first six weeks continues, as he’s slashing .340/.415/.511/.926 since May 16th.

18) Tyler Glasnow (no change) – Old timey gangster movies always had a character named “Baby Face” for some reason. Glasnow’s young, but rather than “baby face,” I think we should go with “Baby Steps” as his nick name. Ol’ “Baby Steps” Glasnow continues to progress, however incrementally small his growth may be from start-to-start. The positive to this past weekend’s start in New York? He gave up just 5 hits. The negative? 3 of those hits were home runs, and he also walked 3 after not giving up any free passes at PNC Park the prior weekend.

17) Jose Osuna (+2) – 4-for-11 on the week with 2 XBH, the only fault you could find in Osuna’s game the last seven days was that he didn’t have any mammoth home runs or walk-off winners. He continues to be a more-than-serviceable bench piece as the Bucs search for replacements for last year’s Sean Rodriguez & Matt Joyce production..

16) Tony Watson (no change)Watson had just his 4th ‘clean,’ 1-2-3 inning of the season Sunday afternoon in finishing off the Pirates’ 11-1 win over the Mets. His only opportunity to close a game in the past week came on Memorial Day when he gave up a pinch-hit 2-out, 2-run homer to the .236 hitting Chris Iannetta. In the 47.1 innings he’s worked as the Bucs’ closer, he’s now given up 10 HRs.

T-13) Wade LeBlanc (-1) – LeBlanc is still Mr. Dependable regardless of where he’s used, although the high leverage spots continue to disagree with him as we saw Wednesday afternoon when Juan Nicasio had to come in to bail him out after 3 of the 4 batters he faced reached base.

T-13) Elias Diaz (recalled from Indianapolis) – Diaz enters the Power Rankings after getting on base 5 times in 9 plate appearances over the weekend and a 6-RBI night Friday in an emergency start against the Mets thanks to Francisco Cervelli’s rogue sinuses. He could be a starter for at least half the teams in the Majors, including the one he’s on, if not for the presence of an established veteran in front of him. As it stands, given his relationship with the team’s young starting rotation, the club could do a lot worse for a back-up when Chris Stewart is done and/or moves on after this season.

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T-13) Trevor Williams (+4) – How far has Williams come since that awful first start in Los Angeles on May 8th? His 2.83 ERA in his last four starts puts him firmly in the 4th spot in the team’s rotation even after Taillon returns. Sunday in New York was the best start of his career, and he continues to improve from outing-to-outing.

12) David Freese (-1) Sunday afternoon in Queens was just Freese’s 3rd multi-hit game since coming off the DL, so the hope is that it works as a slump buster. The Pirates need David Freese of early April back in the heart of their order if they’re going to improve offensively.

11) Jordy Mercer (+1) – Mercer’s track record of offensive transformation in June & July was outlined in last week’s Power Rankings, and if the last two weeks are any indication, his head start has him well on his way to a summer of production at the plate: .404/.436/.712/1.148 with 9 Extra Base Hits in his last 55 PAs, including his 2-out, bottom of the 11th game-extending homer on Wednesday afternoon is enough to forgive a guy granting us a 93-minute rain delay on getaway day.

10) Gregory Polanco (-1) – Polanco shook off the ankle injury last week that looked near-catastrophic at the time to go 3-for-12 in 4 games. Unfortunately, none of those hits went for extra bases, as his power continues to wax and wane at an unpredictable pace.

9) Adam Frazier (-3)Frazier’s cool down now goes back two full weeks, in which he’s hitting just .204/.332/.347/.679. Perhaps it’s fatigue, as Clint Hurdle claimed when he sat Frazier down for a pair of days last week. Perhaps it’s a quiet, nagging injury. Or more likely, perhaps he’s a rookie  (he exceeded rookie threshold by just 6 At Bats last year) who’s hitting a struggle point. Regardless, despite this two week cool down, he still leads the team in AVG & OBP, is 4th in SLG, and 2nd in OPS.

8) Francisco Cervelli (+1) – He continues to be sneaky good offensively, getting on base at a 40% rate over the past month. As much as some traditionalists may tire of the constant antics and arguing at the plate – both when behind it and standing at it with a bat in his hands – his pitchers still love to work with him. His Caught Stealing rate still needs to improve, but until he drops off, he’s not losing his job to Diaz barring a move of some sort.

7) Josh Bell (no change)His statistics continue to show struggle, especially the team-leading 44% K rate this past week. His ability to change the game with a single swing is enticing though, and when you consider he’s shown the ability to stay down and drive pitches the other way when he’s on, you have to chalk up periods of high whiff rate to youthful inexperience rather than a Pedro-like inability to hit breaking pitches.

6) Gerrit Cole (-2)Cole’s 3 worst starts of the season –and 3 of the 4 worst of his career – have come in succession in late May/early June, and the most disturbing part is that he’s continuing to give up home runs at a franchise-record pace. (Murry Dickson game up 32 dingers in 1951. In the last 85 years, the only other pitchers to come close to the number for the Bucs were John Candelaria in 1971 and Ian Snell in 2006, who each gave up 29.)

5) Andrew McCutchen (+5) – Cutch’s big jump in this week’s rankings reflect the enormous impact he can have on games when he’s looking like himself at the plate. A .519 On Base week – the only game where he didn’t reach base multiple times was the Robbie Ray-spun gem – was highlighted by his walk-off winner on Memorial Day and a 3-run homer in his 3-for-5 day Sunday at Citi Field. As noted last week, the sample size since his move to the 6th spot in the order is small – just 40 Plate Appearances – but the .387/.500/.742/1.242 slash line with 17.5% walk rate sure does give you hope that  McCutchen may be finding himself again.

4) Juan Nicasio (+1)Nicasio’s jumped 4 spots in the last two weeks because he continues to push Rivero for the title of best high leverage arm in the ‘pen. He recorded 10 outs this week and 5 of them came via strikeout, and he yielded just a single base runner in his 3.1 innings. As it stands, he’s going to be the most attractive Trade Deadline target on this roster for a team searching for late-inning help. (Hi there, Mike Rizzo. Ever wish you wouldn’t have somehow been hoodwinked out of dealing Felipe Rivero?)

3) Josh Harrison (no change)Harrison continues to quietly be the most consistent offensive presence in the lineup. According to Fangraphs, he’s already compiled 1.8 WAR, good enough to have doubled the next-best position player on the team (Mercer, with 0.9) and ranking as the 2nd best season of his career, just 55 games in.

2) Felipe Rivero (no change) Another near-flawless week for Rivero – 0 ER in 3 IP, allowing just 3 baserunners – culminated in a Chapmanesque near-melting of the PNC Park radar gun, hitting 102 mph several times Wednesday afternoon before the rains came. He’s still the best high-leverage reliever on this team, and the best lefty reliever in the National League right now.

1) Ivan Nova (no change)There’s no reason to stop believing that Nova is still this team’s most valuable player to this point in the season. Despite running into the Robbie Ray buzzsaw this past week, pushing his 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K on 78 pitches/55 strikes line into the shadows, he is still their best chance to win every 5th day, and we’d be well-served to not forget that.

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