Pregame Notes: Bucs set to open important early-season homestand vs. Jays

Mitchell Layton

Injury Updates / Monday's starter

Here is what Hurdle had to say this afternoon about Monday's starting pitcher and injury updates:

On Jeff Locke possibly starting Monday: "Possibly. He gives us another option." Hurdle said the team was "far from" making a final decision, however.

On Wandy Rodriguez: "I have no idea. I look forward to speaking with him (this afternoon)."

On Russell Martin: "It's early, it's not like he's coming off (the disabled list) in a day or two. It has started to quiet down, he's starting to weight train and condition."

On Francisco Liriano: Hurdle said that Liriano has had issues with nose bleeds in the past, just not many in his time with the Pirates. He is scheduled to meet with the medical staff today.

A Perfect Storm

The Pirates are 4-15 since April 11th. The biggest reason for the swoon is the utter disappearance of important cogs of the Bucs' offense. With the exception of Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, and Gaby Sanchez, every other expected contributor is mired in a terrible slump.

Since April 11:

The Team .220/.292/.333 (.625 OPS)

Jordy Mercer .167/182/.190 (.372)

Pedro Alvarez .176/.273/.235 (.508)

Starling Marte .213/.280/.267 (.547)

Ike Davis .170/.278/.277 (.554)

Travis Snider .167/.255/,238 (.493)

Jose Tabata .235/.278/.294 (.572)

Russell Martin .211/.318/.211 (.529)

These numbers will change, and the offense will perform closer to projected levels, but the issue now is whether the bounce will be enough to save the season. Just based on talent, this was basically a 80-84 win team heading into the year. Such a average teams can't afford to bottom out for stretches like this. It is pretty much the worst case scenario.

Hurdle was relatively succinct in describing the state of the offense today. When asked whether he was satisfied with the offensive approach the last few games, Hurdle simply said, "It's improving."

Not since The Collapse

Obviously the Pirates did not have a losing stretch of games like this in 2013. Their worst record over 19 games last year was 7-12. The last time the Bucs went 4-15 was during the September collapse of 2012. During the worst of that month, September 8-to-September 27, the Pirates were outscored 68-108. They've been outscored 63-83 during the current run.

It doesn't matter when collapses happen, it is the fact of a collapse that can cost a team its season. The collapse of 2012 drove the Pirates out of playoff contention, if the Pirates don't have a successful homestand, plus three games in Milwaukee, they'll officially be the verge of collapsing early and their fate will be mostly sealed.

Relevant and timely

If you missed it, check out Neil Paine's piece at FiveThirtyEight on second position hitters and the increasing acceptance, or in this case, ignoring, of sabermetrics. On the one hand, Paine's piece is comforting, as it shows the Bucs aren't alone in mishandling the second spot. On the other hand, it is frustrating that the Pirates aren't out in front on this issue, since they need to take advantage of every efficiency they can.

With the way things are going, my fixation on the batting order is really only about aesthetics. No lineup change could have saved this team from its current bad stretch. When a perfect storm of slumps hits a club, there is very little that can be done. Moreover, batting players in the right order does not add as many runs over the course of a season as we'd like to imagine. However, it is pretty clear that the Pirates are miscasting McCutchen by batting him third, and for such a sabermetrically-informed team it's perplexing why that hasn't changed.

Bucs face Brandon Morrow

Tonight would seems like a good opportunity for the Pirates to break out offensively. Blue Jays' starter Brandon Morrow enters tonight's game with a 6.04 ERA. Last season he posted a 5.63 ERA in 54.1 innings, before losing the rest of the season to injury. Morrow is also coming off a very wobbly start, check out his line last Sunday vs. the Red Sox: 2.2 innings pitched, no hits, four runs, EIGHT walks, one strikeout.

Kratz is Back

The Blue Jays called up catcher Erik Kratz prior to tonight's game. The 34 year old spend a short time with the Pirates in 2010, batting .118/.167/.118 in 36 plate appearances.

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