The Pittsburgh Pirates ended July 40-62 and find themselves in the bottom part of the National League standings. Manager Derek Shelton’s team finished with a 9-17 record in July.
Playing on national TV Saturday night hosting the Philadelphia Phillies on FOX, the broadcast identified two eye-popping statistics that label the Bucs in historically bad company.
The 2022 Pirates only achieved 12 wins by starting pitchers through the first 100 games of the season, the fewest in all of baseball since 1906. 116 years ago.
Part of the explanation can be Shelton’s early-season hesitancy to allow starters to pitch more than five innings, or even get to five innings, and the Pirates’ lack of offense. The inexperience and ineffectiveness of the rotation has not provided any favors, but has delivered starts into the sixth and even seventh inning in July where the Pirates could not capitalize.
Other than two outlier series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Pirates have not hit and pitched effectively at the same time all year.
How bad is the Pirates’ hitting? It gets worse when people are on base.
Pittsburgh is second-worst in team batting average (.219) entering Sunday. The team has been atrocious with runners in scoring position, recording the second-lowest team average (.203) before Saturday’s game since 1969. The only team worse than the 2022 Pirates were the 1969 San Diego Padres. The Padres hit only .200 on the season… in their first year of existence as an expansion team.
First-year hitting coach Andy Haines hasn’t had much time with the team to solidify much blame on his end. Only Bryan Reynolds has improved as the season moves along, mostly due to Reynolds’ unorthodox start where he was hitting around .210.
Shelton is a former hitting coach who made a name for himself with the Tampa Bay Rays. Remember the speed hitter???
The Bucs need something creative like that to spark this offense back from its ice cold stretch. The Pirates have not made much traction in the NL and now are fighting to remain out the basement in the NL Central, a common home for Shelton’s club.
Pirates record under Shelton:
2020: 19-41 (.317 winning percentage)
2021: 61-101 (.377)
2022: 40-62 (.392)
Shelton has acknowledged that there are going to be rough moments throughout the season that comes with deploying as many young players as the Pirates, and the Bucs are not pulling out close games with the bullpen.
The Pirates deployed a large number of rookies already before the trade deadline and don’t be surprised if more rookies are recalled from Triple-A to return to Pittsburgh or make their MLB debut.
Shelton is not at fault for all of the struggles and inconsistencies, but at what point does positive change come to the team?
There is excitement for multiple young Bucs, despite most of them hitting around .200, that they will figure out their swings with more time at the Major League level. The decision making between bullpen management and lineup construction has been a head scratcher for most of the season leaving much to be desired.
The organization is definitely in a better position player personnel wise than when Ben Cherington and Shelton took over, looking at the entire Minor League and Major League roster, but no traction has been made to truly improve the big league team.
Part of that is 2022 is only the beginning of the next wave of top prospects, with the core of Nick Gonzales, Liver Peguero, Quinn Priester, and Henry Davis not in Pittsburgh yet, but at some point, excuses need to be put aside for results.
Shelton seems to be losing some support from the fan base. However, the players have continued to publicly support their manager and have played hard for him despite the unfavorable results.
The remainder of 2022 will be a tipping point in how Shelton’s future with the Pirates takes shape, needing to show signs of life in the second half that the Pirates have an actual direction worth believing in. The hot stove of the MLB trade deadline sure heats up the baseball world, but could make its way into the managers office if the patience has run its course.
Do you have faith in Derek Shelton as the manager that can turn things around for the Pirates?