Series Preview

Final stretch to the break: the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reds and Pirates will meet this weekend for the final series before the All-Star break.  The Reds and Pirates both come into this series hot.  The Reds are 13-6 in their last 19 games, and the Pirates are 12-6 in their last 18 games (although the Pirates did just lose 3 of 4 to the Cardinals).  The Pirates are 48-44 on the season, and are 3.5 games back in the NL Central.

The Reds are 7-3 so far in 2014 against the Pirates.  Here are the numbers in the season series:

reds bucs

Offense

The Pirates have a very solid offense.  If you look at their projected lineup, they have seven above average players using wRC+.  The Pirates hitters 1-5 in the lineup all have wRC+ of 120 or better.

offense

Projected Lineup

 

lineup

 

Starling Marte is on bereavement leave.  He is not expected to play in this series.

Bench

bench

 

Pitching

Starting Pitching Matchups

Friday, 7:10: Mat Latos vs Jeff Locke

Both pitchers in this matchup have limited starts in 2014.  Mat Latos has been very good in his five starts since returning from the DL, although his fastball velocity and strikeouts are significantly down.  Jeff Locke started the season in the minors, and he really wasn’t good at AAA (9 GS, 4.14 ERA, 1.46 WHIP).  Locke was called up on May 5th, and in his only start got shelled (5.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER).  Locke was sent back down to the minors, and returned to the majors on June 8th.  Since his return to the Pirates, Locke has been absolutely tremendous: 6 GS, 2.23 ERA, 0.86 WHIP.

latoslocke

Saturday, 7:15: Charlie Morton vs Mike Leake

Charlie Morton has been without question the best starter on the Pirates this season.  He was tremendous in his first two starts of July: 13.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 10 K, 0.69 ERA, 0.85 WHIP.  Mike Leake has been hit really hard over his last two starts, allowing a total of 20 hits in 12.2 IP.  Leake has however done a nice job of run prevention of late, as he has only allowed 7 ER in his last 4 starts.

sat

Sunday, 1:10: Johnny Cueto vs Francisco Liriano

This will be a rematch of the 2013 Wild-Card game.  Liriano has been up and down with injuries this season, and hasn’t pitched since June 10th.  Johnny Cueto will look to head into the All-Star break with a sub-2 ERA, something that hasn’t been done by a Reds starter since Gary Nolan (1.82 ERA) in 1972.

sun

Bullpen

The Pirates have a really solid back-end of their bullpen, with All-Star Tony Watson, Jared Hughes, and Mark Melancon.  The rest of their bullpen is a little less than stellar.

pen

bucs pen

Defense

The Pirates have great speed in the outfield, but this isn’t a great defensive team.  An interesting stat to see is that Andrew McCutchen has -7 DRS and -20.4 UZR/150.

D

Conclusion

The Reds are banged up.  The loss of Brandon Phillips will force the Reds to play another replacement level player everyday.  The Reds will need rely heavily upon their pitching in this series, and hope they can continue their dominance of the good Pirates lineup.  The Reds are just 2.5 games back in the division, and if they can just make it to the All-Star break realatively close to first place, maybe Walt Jocketty can make a move to get the Reds offense some much needed help.  This is a big series for the Redlegs.

standings

 

 

*all stats in this post only include games played through 7/10/14

 

49 thoughts on “Final stretch to the break: the Pittsburgh Pirates

  1. As banged-up as we are, I would gladly accept taking one out of three from the Bucs this weekend.

    I fear we could be on the wrong end of an ugly sweep this weekend…..

    • starting pitching is the one reason i don’t have that concern, but our offense will need help with all the injuries

  2. Difference between ERA and FIP for our starting pitchers has me worried given that BP is out, BHam may be limited and 1B is a bandage. Oh adversity, thou rears thy ugly mug too often. Regardless, go redlegs!

  3. With living in Indy I see all the big Pirates before they become pirates and this new kid ain’t bad. I think Pirates are moving in the right direction and with all our injuries I think they are a tad better right now. However pitching does favor us if the O can just put some hits together…

  4. The Pirates sent down to AAA one of their pitchers so that they would have an extra bat off the bench for this series. And the Reds are going to play shorthanded.
    Injuries are no excuse. Reds need to take 2 of 3 this weekend. Set the tone for the 2nd half in this series. I’d like to see the Reds get together as a team in front of their dugout right after the National Anthem and before they take the field, and do one of those football huddles that get swaying back and forth. A little show of togetherness for this series despite all the injuries. That would get the crowd fired up right from the get go.

    • The Reds are going into the weekend with 14 pitchers and 3 bench bats.
      No, really!
      They recalled Partch and Contreras and sent Barnhart to AAA.

      What the heck is going on in the front office?

      • What? No 3rd catcher? With Pena getting time at 1B? I really, really don’t know what the heck WJ is doing. Why on earth do they need 9 bullpen arms?

        • I understand bringing up an arm because of that, but if you’re going to have Pena at 1B, then I’d like to have Barnhart on my bench as a 3rd catcher. Or, you could bring Soto back up and have your 3rd catcher and a guy who can actually play a good 1B should Pena have to catch. Heck, you’re going to want more than 3 bench bats just so your relief pitchers don’t have to bad. I understand the pen is pretty spent but 1 more arm probably would have been enough.

        • They have to be nursing/ hiding arms in the pen that are much less than 100%. Maybe they hope to get them to the break for the extended rest/ recovery time.

  5. That is just an amazing lineup. When your #7 is Ike Davis and your #8 is Pedro Alvarez, you have a formidable offense.

      • Well he gets on base quite a lot, so that when Alvarez comes up, he can score on one of his doubles or homers… Then there’s the (un)lucky little nugget that he’s hit 2 grand-slams against the Reds this year.

  6. O-fer Heisey gets another start. A just reward after a 4 K game yesterday. Heisey going for a back-to-back golden sombrarro. Heisey is hitting .167 since June 1. Pirates starting a LH pitcher tonight. Heisey vs. LH this year .182 and for his career .220. Brutal.
    If this is the best Walt Jocketty can do, then his best is woefully inadequate to be a GM of a contending MLB team.

    • Heisey got on base four times on Tuesday. Skip Schumaker is even worse vs LHP, and Heisey plays great defense. I’d certainly prefer the Reds bring in a better player, but Heisey should be playing given the current roster.

  7. Lineup:

    BHam – cf
    Cozart – ss
    Frazier -3b
    Bruce – rf
    Mes – c
    Ludwick – lf
    Heisey – rf
    Santiago -2b
    Latos -p

    Guess someone has to bat in the #2 hole. Hope they know what they are doing with Billy.

  8. Why does Price refuse to play Bruce in RF since Votto got hurt? So your going to hurt 2 positions on the field to fix one. C’mon man its not rocket science. The front office is a joke but not calling up Soto also. New yr same old Reds.

  9. I see that tonight, I’m just saying I don’t understand why after the All Star break they don’t bring up Soto and let me play everyday. You can’t expect him to hit in pro ball playing once a week. Put him at 1b for a week, you have to find out what you have.

    • I think they have a pretty good idea of what they have in Soto and having him stink up the big league starting lineup for a week during a tight playoff race isn’t the time to see if they’re wrong.

      • It’s better than having Bruce at 1B instead of RF. He’s a great RF, and an (understandably) lousy 1B. I’d rather have Soto up and batting 8th than weaken our defense to that extent. It’s madness.

        • Not if it means having a guy with a negative wRC+ anywhere in the lineup it’s not. The name of the game over the next couple months is going to be pitching and finding offensive runs. Heisey and Skip are good defensively in RF and Bruce’s bat is so much better than Pena’s that this makes sense. This is an emergency situation. Nothing about it is ideal, but I think this is the best we can hope for unless there’s a significant trade.

      • I think you’re right. The front-office has apparently made their opinion. You know though, if I was Soto, I may be asking the organization to trade me or release me about now. Of course he can be a minor-league FA soon I believe. It’s pretty clear they don’t believe in him and at some point if I were him, I’d like to have a shot at playing significant time in the big leagues. He could always go back and be minor-league filler if it didn’t work out… Honestly, I think he’s a AAAA player and a guy who’s likely to be up and down as a corner IF utility player. That said, if I was Soto with the Votto injuries and such right now, and hitting pretty well at AAA, I’d be very annoyed that the organization had no faith in me. Time to have a heart to heart with Walt or one of the assistant GMs. “Look, it’s clear you guys don’t think I can do the job, so why am I here? I’d like a chance to go somewhere else.”

        • Not to sound cruel, but I’m not particularly interested in Soto’s feelings. Nor do I think he’s likely to have much of a ML career. But what I don’t understand is why the Reds think it’s a great plan to weaken their defense significantly in 2 spots, when the team is built on defense.

          The math is simple: Bruce (1B) + Schu (RF) < Bruce (RF) + Soto (1B). Pretty much any professional 1B can be subbed for Soto in that equation.

        • Except tonight it’s Heisey in RF so that’s not really any defensive dropoff at all. And even when it’s Skip, the offensive benefit of keeping Bruce’s bat in the lineup over Pena is much bigger than any defensive dropoff. Again, adjust your standards. With anything like a normal spat of injuries this kind of alignment would be unthinkable, but this is some I Am Legend level of decimation we’re dealing with. Price has to be creative.

        • Eric, Bruce’s bat should always be in the lineup, barring a rare off day here and there. So the offensive upgrade we’re talking about is with the other guys. Maybe–maybe–the offensive upgrade of Peña over Soto is worth the defensive downgrade of Peña over Soto. But in that case, Bruce is in RF. I’m arguing against putting Bruce at 1B. Are you arguing for putting Peña in RF? :-)

        • It’s such a complicated situation. In theory, our strongest starting 8 includes Bruce and either Heisey or Skip. Since those other two apparently can’t play 1B then this is the dilemma we face. If Pena can pick up his offense maybe it’s a different story, but then we have to keep Barnhart on the roster. Ideally Heisey and Skip would learn to play 1B and/or Skip could learn 3B so we could put Frazier at first every day. All the permutations are making my head hurt…I feel like I need the ASB to rehab…

        • Why is it complicated? Accept that we won’t get huge offensive production out of 1B. Then, keep Bruce in RF. Even if Heisey or Schu is marginally better than Soto–or whoever–it’s just not worth it to have a bad 1B and lose a great RF with a terrific arm. Heisey is way better defensively than Schu, but he doesn’t have Bruce’s arm; plus, Price seems to prefer Shu so we’re losing a lot on defense. Soto at 1B+Bruce in RF is so much better defensively that there’s no way Schumaker can post the offensive numbers that would make Bruce at 1B+Schu in RF make sense. No way.

          (Oh, and keep Frazier at 3B. Why on earth would you want to take away his defense there? He’s been terrific. Although, I’d still prefer Santiago at 3B and Frazier at 1B to anything that moves Bruce from RF to 1B; too bad Santiago has to play 2B. I feel like I’m doing Abbott and Costello at this point….)

        • You’re really obsessed with defense. Look, I don’t want to weaken the defense anywhere, either. But offense is a much bigger consideration. Heisey can’t play any IF spots, Skip presumably can’t play 1st. Without Soto on the roster that leaves, apparently, 3 players who can play 1st: Frazier, Pena, and Bruce. Soto isn’t an option because apparently the organization really doesn’t trust his bat at all and we can’t afford to have a totally worthless bat in the lineup. So if your usual starting OF is Ludwick/Hamilton/Bruce then that means you have to either move Frazier or start Pena every day at 1B. Now you have either Skip or Santiago covering 2B, and you won’t want Skip out there against a LHP so on those days it’s Santiago so Frazier is stuck at 3B. (Starting to see why this is more complicated than you think?) Now you have to decide whose bat is more important to you:Pena or Heisey. Historically, Heisey is the easy choice. So Price has to decide whether he wants to strengthen the offense at the expense of defense at 1B. Defense is important, but not nearly as important as scoring runs at the plate. If you don’t think these are tough calls that Price is making I don’t know what else to tell you.

        • Yes, I’m obsessed with defense. The team is built around pitching and defense. I’m confident a core of Mesoraco/Frazier/Hamilton/Bruce can keep us in the hunt offensively. Which is why I believe we can afford a “worthless bat” in the lineup. I believe Price makes lots of tough decisions, and I’ve been one of his staunchest supporters on this site, but I don’t think this one is that hard: keep Bruce in RF, play Peña at 1B until Walt gives him a real 1B–even someone like Soto, even if he can’t hit–cover 2B with Santiago and Schumaker, and keep playing Ludwick, Heisey and Schu in LF. Voila.

  10. Cozart back at the top of the order…Sigh. Though I guess given our roster there’s really not a lot of choice there. Every lineup’s going to have problems until we make a move. Glad to see Price is smart enough to not start Skip against a LHP.

  11. With how banged up this club is I really couldn’t care less if Bruce plays 1B. Heisey is, in theory, a better bat than Pena and as good of a defensive RF as Bruce. For the next 4 months it’s all about cramming in as many potentially viable major league bats as possible. This lineup looks to have done that.I might consider swapping Heisey and Cozart or just moving Cozart to 7th and shifting everyone else up one but that’s nit picking. Price is doing a pretty good job handling these setbacks. If this team manages to make the playoffs he should get serious consideration for Manager of the Year, but he probably won’t unless we manage to win the division by a big margin.

  12. It’s too bad Louisville and Cincinnati are so close because the frequent flyer miles would be unreal.

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