We are now 6.2% of the way through the 2016 season; this is simultaneously an insignificant part of the season, yet also significant because each game counts for something. 6.2% is about one long hole of golf. You can have a bad hole and still salvage the round, no problem. But if you let that bad hole get to you and you slice your drive on the second hole, then things might start to look a little worse. And if you get worried or scared, things spiral out of control and you’re not really golfing anymore, but just driving around a small motorized vehicle, chasing another small motorized vehicle that happens to be loaded up with beer.
The Pirates are in the position right now where they could be the drunk old man chasing down the beer cart on the golf course, or they could be the person driving the beer cart. What does this analogy really mean? I have no idea, but the Pirates should just start winning some games so I don’t have to explain it further.
They dropped their fifth game out of their last six, this one in bullpen-implosion fashion yet again (after last game's debacle post-Vogelsong) to the Tigers. A strong start from Gerrit Cole was wasted, as the offense couldn’t bring in RISP again (more on that below) and Rob Scahill and Tony Watson combined to give up five runs in two innings, even when the offense decided to get it rolling and put some runs on the board. Cole also had a scary moment (that possibly was a factor in his coming out of the game) in the sixth when a comebacker glanced off his head:
Let’s thank our stars that he’s okay, as the already dismal pitching would look even worse without him in the rotation (not to mention the fact that he could be dead from that type of a hit).
Every starter except for Chris Stewart got a hit today (including Cole), with some particularly standout 3-5 performances from John Jaso and David Freese. It looks bad on the offense when they leave 12 guys on base and go 5-16 with runners in scoring position, though. People on the internet (I hear these are the movers and shakers of society) are getting their feathers ruffled by the Pirates' inability to convert base runners into runs. This is a very small sample, though; just continuing to pound away and get guys on base will eventually result in runs. In fact, with just with a quick search, I found this page from way back in 2000 that shows the high correlation between OBP and runs scored (higher than almost any stat except OPS, which is related in obvious ways). People knew about this 16 years ago, and it's still true now, so don't panic just yet.
What’s the upshot here? If the Pirates keep plugging away and getting guys on base, that will translate into runs over the long haul and the offense is nothing to be worried about. The pitching, on the other hand, is quite possibly something to be a little nervous about. The bullpen outside of Watson/Melancon looks suspect, although I suspect Caminero will be fine in the long run. Jared Hughes’s return will bolster the ‘pen as well. However, wasting two consecutive good starts is a shame, and the Pirates need to put themselves in a better position to cash in on these type of games.
Let’s forget about this week. The Pirates had a shitty start to the season last year and then were the best damn team in baseball for most of the year. Let’s not let a few losses cloud our vision; rather, look at the positives in what seems to be a very high-powered offensive attack and think about what could be down the pipeline. The Brewers are in town for a three game set this weekend, so hopefully getting to play against a rebuilding franchise gets the Pirates some sorely needed tick marks in the W column. First pitch today is at 7:05pm EDT, with Jeff Locke and Jimmy Nelson on the bump for the Pirates and Brewers, respectively. If you’re going to make it to any of the games this weekend, don’t forget to boo Ryan Braun when he’s at the dish.