Thanks to a recent 7-3 surge, the Pirates are now in second place in the NL Central. As we saw last week, it's all on the backs of their pitching staff. That said, their offense has been up a bit over the past week, which is to say that they've actually scored a couple of runs. And their starting pitching has been on a nice run.
Their fielding numbers are up over the past week. Based on the current data, I think we have to allow that this could be a good fielding ballclub. I don't really see it in the pieces, though, so this could also be a mirage. But maybe they're not horrible?
I still don't see the Pirates as a contender. But they can be a legitimate spoiler. And with a sweep, they could be tied for first with the Reds. Let's not go there.
Park Factors: Great American Ballpark
Home Runs: 1.06 LHB, 1.13 RHB
Here's what I'm talking about with respect to the fielding pieces not adding up. I don't know much about Barajas's defense, but his SB/WP/PB numbers peg him as below average. Walker's reputation is at least a bit below average at 2B. Alvarez is known as below average at 3B, at least in terms of range. Garrett Jones is a below-average right fielder. I'll buy that Tabata is above-average in a corner, and I'll buy that Clint Barmes is at least average at short (despite his history as a 2Bman). But it's hard to see where these improvements are coming from.
In any case, the only real change to the lineup from last week is that Josh Harrison is ice cold and is no longer getting starts. He's even gotten some public criticism from Pirates GM Neal Huntington, who noted on the radio that advanced scouts are bound to observe that you don't have to throw balls over the plate to get him out. Not the sort of thing you usually hear from your own GM... Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see Harrison get at least one start in this series, and it could be just about anywhere on the diamond.
Brad Lincoln is making a spot start in Charlie Morton's place this week. Morton went on the DL with elbow inflammation, which he apparently started to experience in his 4-inning appearance against the Reds last week. Lincoln, a former #1 draft pick, has been brilliant out of the bullpen this year. He has a shot to stick in the rotation too. While most expect Jeff Karstens to take Morton's spot when he returns, which could happen as soon as a week from now, Huntington indicated recently that Karstens is not assured a rotation spot. I've always liked Lincoln since he posted big numbers for AA-Altoona (my adopted home town) a few years back, but he's had shots at starting before and not made the transition. We'll see. I'm sure the Pirates would love to see him take off.
Speaking of uncertain futures....Kevin Correia has almost exactly a 1:1 K:BB ratio, and both numbers are hovering around 1.0. I'd love to see the Reds send that .223 BABIP into big-time regression mode!
Logan Ondrusek's xFIP is 4.75. His BABIP is .258. His LOB% is 88%. I want to believe guys, but his peripherals keeps slipping further and further...
Speaking of xFIPs, Joel Hanrahan has a 4.12. Both he and Grilli have been walking a ton, and allowing lots of fly balls. It's tough to make contact...but if you do after the put a guy or two on, it has a chance to go out when you're playing in Cincinnati.