Tonight the Yankees will take the field at PNC Park in Pittsburgh for the start of a two-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you haven’t been following the Pirates closely (and why would you be?) here’s what you need to know:
The Pirates are an awful team. They’re sporting a 32-47 record which is good for third place in the NL Central, but that’s a bit deceiving. Baseball Reference’s SRS, which uses run differential and strength of schedule, has them ranked as the worst team in MLB.
To say they’ve had difficulty scoring in 2022 would be understating it, as they currently have the third-lowest runs per game average backed by the fourth-worst team OPS+. They strike out a lot (second highest K% in MLB) which wouldn’t be a problem if they hit with power but they don’t, as their 26th place standing in extra-base hit percentage will attest to. All-Star centerfielder Bryan Reynolds has been their best hitter this season with a 120 OPS+ – which would be good for sixth-best on the Yankees, seventh if you count Matt Carpenter.
In the rare instances in which they do reach base (.290 team OBP, third-worst in MLB) they aren’t likely to run as they’re below league average in both stolen base attempts and in extra bases taken. The conservative approach is probably sound judgment on their part as their 68% success rate on steals is the fifth-worst in MLB.
Pittsburgh’s pitching hasn’t been much better as they’ve walked batters at a higher rate than all but three teams, while their “K” rate is only better than six teams. I’m not an MLB pitching coach but I do know that many walks without many strikeouts is a bad pitching strategy.
To make matters worse, the team’s defense ranks 28th in Defensive Runs Above Average and they’ve turned batted balls into outs at a lower rate than all but two teams. When it’s all added up, the Buccos have allowed the sixth-most runs per game in the big leagues this season.
That said, 33-year-old lefty José Quintana (who the Yanks will see tonight) is having himself a career resurgence in 2022. Quintana has made 15 starts for Pittsburgh and posted a very good 3.57 FIP with a 124 ERA+ (which isn’t easy to do with a porous defense behind you).
Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing rookie phenom Oneil Cruz. The 6’ 7” 23-year-old shortstop runs as fast as anyone in baseball, throws baseballs as hard as anyone, and can hit the ball very hard and very far. Hopefully, we’ll get some exciting baseball from him over the next two days – but not “too much” excitement…
With a four-game weekend series in Bah-stun looming, the Yankees can’t look ahead as these are two games that both need to go in the “W” column.
Pitching matchups and how to watch:
Tonight: Jameson Taillon vs. José Quintana, first pitch 7:05 PM ET.
Wednesday: Luis Severino vs. Mitch Keller, first pitch 7:05 PM ET.
Let’s take two in the Steel City boys.
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