This article contains opinion. All stats current as of April 29.
Unfortunately, the NL Central lead did not last for the Pirates as they have surrendered eight straight games to opponents.
Falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Bucs have fallen to two games under .500, as well as fourth in the NL Central, following an eight-game losing streak.
However, contrary to popular belief, this was not because of a lack of offensive production.
Rather, it was due to a few notable losses on the team and a bullpen that has become a garbage fire within a dumpster fire.
Here’s what they need to do to get back on the winning side of things.
1. Fix the bullpen
For a young platoon, the Pirates’ bullpen has failed to live up to expectations after acquiring Keone Kela last summer.
Each reliever (excluding Nick Burdi – injured just as he was heating up – and Francisco Liriano) has an ERA at more than 4.25, with Steven Brault taking the biggest part of the load, giving up eight runs in 6.2 innings, good for a 10.25 ERA in 11 appearances so far.
For comparison, Liriano is scoreless in that same amount of games.
Brault has had many opportunities to redeem himself within the past year, and it isn’t proving to be worth the time. Send him to AAA, and recall J.T. Brubaker, who is carrying over his success in relief since last year.
One other thing: do not rely on Richard Rodriguez to hold down a slim lead (that is if you consider five runs to be slim).
The role for a set-up pitcher is to hold down the fort until Felipe Vazquez can earn the save in the ninth. Rodriguez has not done this for several games.
In conclusion, I’ll say this. Since the Pirates do not want to spend money for good relief pitching, they need to utilize their farm talent and send some relievers down to AAA to work on problem areas.
Or you can bring J.B. Shuck in to pitch, considering he has a 0.00 ERA as of now.
2. Improve Tucker and Martin
Before you think I’m excluding Bryan Reynolds because I don’t believe in him, don’t fret.
Cole Tucker and Jason Martin, both of whom made their big league debuts this season, have been on a cold streak as of late, whereas Reynolds is hitting a solid .429.
Tucker came up and put emphasis on his potential after he practically walked off the last win for the Pirates with a two-run home run, which was also his first major league hit.
Ever since then, his batting average went down to a .226 while batting in the eighth slot in the order.
The same can be said for Martin, who is hitting slightly better than Tucker (.229).
Not to mention, the duo has drawn only five combined walks, which shows they are trigger happy at the plate.
Both showcase excellent speed and defensive ability, but hitting seems to be their achilles heel. If Rick Eckstein can spend more time with them in the batting cage, working on plate discipline and pitch selection, they can be the spark plugs for the redemption of the battlin’ Bucs.
3. Rebound from injuries
Starling Marte and Erik Gonzalez, both currently on the injured list, are not the only two good players on the team.
Pittsburgh is stacked with young and coming talent and has the makings to have a successful season.
Ever since Gonzalez and Marte left the lineup, the Pirates look like a completely different team in the worst of ways. This is a terrible mindset if you want to win games.
The Pirates need to realize their potential and how their starting rotation can carry them through games if they can provide on offense.
If they can overcome this dark cloud and lead as a team, wins are on the horizon, and if what they have now performs well, a playoff spot might be in the picture.