I attempted earlier this week to dispel the myth surrounding the Pirates disappointing 2016 season. Today I want to tackle another misconception that continues to make the conversational rounds on a regular basis.
The Pirates need everything to go perfectly in order to win under their plan.
That is patently false and here’s the evidence to prove as much.
Three key players went down at various parts of the season. Wandy Rodriguez, Starling Marte and Jason Grilli.
Gerrit Cole, Jose Tabata and Mark Melancon/Tony Watson to the rescue.
Wandy Rodriguez, the veteran lefthander was clipping along with a 6-3 record, a 3.47 ERA and a 1.117 WHIP when he left his June 5th start after just 14 pitches due to pain in his pitching arm. Rodriguez was done for the season.
The Pirates reached into the farm system and promoted top prospect Gerrit Cole who made his initial start June 11th, beating the Giants 8-2 at PNC Park. Cole finished the season 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP.
Starling Marte injured his hand during a 4-2 August loss to the Diamondbacks while in the midst of hitting .282 with a .343 OBP. He was also third in the NL with 35 stolen bases.
In stepped the much maligned Jose Tabata who hit .318 in that month and then .315 in September with OPS marks of .851 and .844.
Pirates closer Jason Grilli left the team’s 6-5 win over the Nationals July 22nd when he experienced tightness in his right forearm. Grill and his 30 saves wouldn’t see the field again until September 4th.
Mark Melancon stepped in and up to record 16 saves the rest of the way and Tony Watson stepped into the eighth inning setup role.
Pedro Alvarez was coming off a 36 home run 2013 season which tied for the league league with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt. That was the follow up ot a 30 homer season in 2012. It looked as if the former first round pick was developing into that middle of the order bat the Pirates thought him to be.
Then he forgot how to throw the ball across the infield.
Rather than relive that nightmare, let’s just say that the Pirates turned to super utility man Josh Harrison, who stepped in at third base and delivered a breakout .315/.347/.490/.837 while manning that spot for 68 games. Included in that mix was a .327 average in September when the Pirates went 17-9, securing the first Wild Card slot.
The Pirates rotation, plagued by a combination of injury and ineffectiveness at times, emplyed seven pitchers who made at least ten starts. Included in that mix was Vance Worley who in 17 starts compiled a 2.85 ERA to go with a 1.211 WHIP.
Gregory Polanco was expected to take the reins in right field after posting a AAA line of .325/.385/.495/.880. However, after a torrid start he saw his average dip to to .240 by the end of August to go with a paltry .657 OPS.
No Polanco? No problem.
In stepped Travis Snider who put up a line of .273/.377/.500/.877 in September along with three home runs.
Jordy Mercer was lost to the team for five weeks after an infield collision with Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez. Clint Hurdle used a combination of Jung Ho Kang, Sean Rodriguez and Pedro Florimon to cover the at bats at third and short. Rodriguez in particular shined with an August line of .349/.391/.419/.810.
Of course Jung Ho Kang was lost for the season after suffering a severe knee injury in a collision with th Cubs Chris Coghlin. After dropping the next four games, the team regrouped to win eleven of the final fifteen to hold off the Cubs and host their third straught Wild Card game.
So, obviously things didn’t go as planned or anything close to it for those three consecutive playoff teams. But the team had the depth to carry through and carry the day.
Pretty big come from behind win for the Pirates last night as the beat the Padres 10-6. Combined with losses by the Cubs and Cardinals, they continue to hang around and are 4.5 games back.