The Pittsburgh Pirates April was an up-and-down ride that saw them finish the month 11-13. They accomplished that with some very good pitching, but featured a lineup that had trouble fielding and putting the ball in play. Luckily, the favorite in the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs, has not run away with the division yet. For now, it is anyone’s to win, including the Pirates. It is a month that anyone can take positives and negatives out of.
Pittsburgh Pirates April in Review
The month started as weirdly as possible for the Pirates. Their first five series of the season were sweeps, and the Pirates ended up sweeping the Atlanta Braves and the defending World Champion Cubs. Even weirder was that they took turns in their swept-or-be-swept affair. It was an odd trend that had the Pirates sitting at 6-9 after the first fifteen games.
In being swept by the Cincinnati Reds, the Pirates only gathered five runs against a very inexperienced starting rotation and a team that overachieved to begin the season. It was a very troubling sign heading to Wrigley Field, but the Pirates did wind up taking a broom to the Cubs.
Pittsburgh finished out the month by taking two out of three against the New Yok Yankees and Miami Marlins, while dropping two against the Cubs in their second series.
Is The Cubs Curse Over?
The Pirates were a measly 4-14 against the Cubs last year, and three of those wins came in a sweep. Hanging with the Cubs, and the entire NL Central division, was something the Pirates needed to address coming into 2017. They are already 4-2 against the Cubs in 2017.
If the Pirates continue beating the teams in their division, things could be looking up for them this season. When Pittsburgh won 98 games in 2015, they had a horrible record against the bottom-feeder Reds and Milwaukee Brewers; however, they were successful against the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals. It made no sense, but they were only another win or two against the two bottom teams from taking the division.
Look for the Pirates to win more games within their division because those usually decide the winner.
Stellar Starting Pitching Will Carry Them
The Pirates made a true attempt to bolster their starting rotation after watching the team crumble because of it in 2016. Entering last season with guys like Ryan Vogelsong and Jeff Locke caused the downfall many hoped would not happen. Injuries and poor performance saw the Pirates start 16 different pitchers last year. That trend needs to change this year, and the results in April will help fans believe this might just happen.
The Pirates entered this season with a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, and Tyler Glasnow. Taillon and Nova have been the unquestioned leaders through the first month, with Cole not far behind. Kuhl has pitched pretty well, aside from getting shelled by the Cubs, and Glasnow has pitched like a young prospect who is not quite ready for MLB.
Nova is the elder statesman of the rotation and has pitched with authority. Since being acquired at the trade deadline last season, Nova has walked a grand total of four batters. He’s already tossed five complete games, including one in his previous start against the Marlins and another earlier in the season. That is one of the craziest stats over that time period.
Nova and Taillon hold ERAs of 1.50 and 2.08, respectively. Cole’s 3.60 ERA is a result of being hit around in his first two starts, but he has been much improved. Kuhl has been above expectations but got rocked against the Cubs, a team he owns a 15.75 ERA against.
The Pirates took a chance on Glasnow in the rotation, as he entered the season as their top prospect. He has some electric stuff on the mound, but he is having trouble locating his pitches. They will need him to really bear down if he wants to keep his spot in the rotation, with guys like Drew Hutchison and Trevor Williams looking to take the spot.
Bad News Bears
The Pirates have trouble fielding. It is no secret. They committed four errors in a game against the Marlins this past weekend and are tied for second with two other teams at 22 errors on the year. They are averaging more than one error per game. They have lost a few games already because errors have mounted on top of each other and dug the Pirates a hole they could not dig themselves out of.
Their catcher, Francisco Cervelli, leads the team with four errors, and they have four guys that currently have three errors. Two of those are Adam Frazier and Josh Harrison, who are battling to take over the every day second base duties despite Frazier currently being on the DL.
They also cannot run the bases well and have seen many of their runners either caught stealing or picked off. They fired their previous base coaches and are now using Kimera Bartee and Joey Cora as the base coaches.
Teams that make a lot of errors do not win. Errors kill rallies, and the Pirates fundamentals look like those of a little league team at times.
The Schedule Gets Easier
Pittsburgh faced probably their toughest portion of the schedule already, It gets much easier in May, with matchups against the Reds, Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies, and Braves ensuing this month. The Pirates will make some noise this month and should be in the hunt to begin June.