Pirates Progress Report No. 5: Where things stand at the halfway point
At least they got the draft pick (sort of) right.
With the All-Star Break wrapping up on Thursday we have reached the unofficial halfway point of the Major League Baseball season and the Pittsburgh Pirates are pretty much exactly where we might have expected them to be.
They are in fourth place in the National League Central.
For all intents and purposes they are out of the playoff race for both the division and a Wild Card spot.
They are on pace to lose at least 90 games.
While the results are about what we expected, their path to those results has been absolutely maddening.
They built up some goodwill and false hope in the first month of the season by going 20-8, at least creating the illusion that some serious progress was being made in this rebuild. Nobody should have realistically expected that pace to continue, but the complete 180 since then has been quite the kick to the groin. They are only 21-41 over the 62 games since that start (that would be a 108-loss pace over a full season) and have looked every bit that bad.
It is not great.
Let’s go through some thoughts on all of that.
Best player in the first half: Mitch Keller
The most refreshing thing about Keller’s development is a pitcher actually figured things out and realized their potential before the Pirates traded them at their lowest possible value for pennies on the dollar.
It is nice to see him do this in Pittsburgh as opposed to, say, Atlanta or Houston.
Keller actually started to turn things around in the second half of last season and he has continued that right into this season. There have been a couple of rocky starts here and there, and he did go through one multi-start slump back in May, but for the most part he has pitched like a top-of-the-rotation starter and helped stop a couple of losing streaks.
I do not know if he is an “ace” on a serious World Series contending team, but he could be an outstanding No. 2. He should be the next player in line for a contract extension.
Most surprising player in the first half: Jack Suwinski
Suwinski is pretty polarizing right now because he gives the Pirates two very different extremes at the plate.
He will go through stretches where he looks like he could not hit the ball if he was using a tree trunk.
Then out of nowhere he will go through stretches where he looks like he is going to hit every ball to the damn moon.
At the end of the day, when you average everything out he is having a pretty outstanding year at the plate and playing a pretty passable center field.
The old-school folks will see a .230 hitter, but among qualified hitters in the Major Leagues he is 29th in on-base percentage, 14th in slugging percentage, 13th in OPS, 14th in home runs and 41st in WAR.
I will take that. You should take that as well.
You are not going to build your team around him, but you will absolutely take him hitting 4th or 5th in your lineup.
Most disappointing player in the first half: Roansy Contreras
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