Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 28, 2014 at 7:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Pirates recently snuck back into the playoff picture with a nice run before the All-Star Break. But, losses this past weekend on the road against lowly Colorado reminded everyone of why the Pirates may still be a longshot to play in October.
They stink on the road!
Pittsburgh is way below .500 away from home this year, while all the other NL contenders are at .500 or better. And, part of why Pittsburgh is in the race at the moment is that they’ve played 55 home games and only 49 road games (only 46 before the Colorado series obviously). Now that the split is starting to even out, the Pirates are drifting off the pace.
That’s why their three-game series at San Francisco that begins Monday Night is so important. Not only is it huge for the Giants…who are battling with the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the West…but it’s arguably the make-or-break series for the Pirates. Should Pittsburgh take at least two of three, you have to take them seriously as a Wildcard contender at the very least. If they lose two of three, then they will have been exposed again as a team that really doesn’t matter in the big picture.
Let’s see what our key indicators stats have to say about the three-game set…
Pittsburgh: 4.13 runs per game, .332 on-base, .388 slugging
S. Francisco: 3.90 runs per game, .304 on-base, .381 slugging
Probably one of the most underreported stories of the Major League season concerns the quality of the Pittsburgh offense. It’s MUCH better than people realize. The Pirates don’t get much national media coverage…the perception was that they won with PITCHING last year, so everyone assumes any success this year is just a continuation of that theme…and, standards have shrunk in a “year of the pitcher” in a way that can hide true quality from people who aren’t paying enough attention. Both of these teams have good offensive numbers despite playing home games in pitcher’s parks. Pittsburgh has one of the best offenses in the National League.
Vance Worley: 3.10 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 6.0 K-Rate
Madison Bumgarner: 3.19 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 9.0 K-Rate
Worley has only made six starts this season…but has been sufficient for the Bucs. Bumgarner has 22 starts with the same ERA and WHIP, but much more control over his own destiny with K’s. This very strongly suggests Bumgarner is the superior of the two pitchers, which you knew already!
Francisco Liriano: 4.18 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 9.5 K-Rate
Tim Hudson: 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5.9 K-Rate
Liriano beat the Dodgers last time out, but that only lifted his record to 2-7 in what’s been a disappointing campaign. Hudson has failed to throw a quality start in 5 of his last nine outings, so he hasn’t been as effective lately as those ace caliber stats would suggest. You still have to give the edge to Hudson. But, he’s going to be pricey…and he’s not pitching to his prices in recent action.
WEDNESDAY’S PITCHERS (day game on MLB Network)
Charlie Morton: 3.40 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 7.2 K-Rate
Tim Lincecum: 3.96 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 8.2 K-Rate
Morton is pitching WAY above career norms this season. But, he has been in the rotation the whole way so it’s not any sort of one week or one month fluke. Pittsburgh’s defense has a way of helping certain types of pitchers. Tim Lincecum has recently been much more dominant than those numbers would suggest…except for the bad start against LAD that came right after he made an emergency appearance as a reliever. Tough one to pick for handicappers because both pitchers are so volatile, and it’s a day-after-night getaway spot on the schedule.
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Back tomorrow for more baseball as we look at another pennant race series. We return to football Tuesday and Wednesday to finish off our summer series of college football conference previews. This week in the NOTEBOOK…
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…either LA Angels at Baltimore or Atlanta at LAD
Wednesday: College Football…SEC “East” Preview
Thursday: College Football…SEC “West” Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview: Milwaukee at St. Louis
Saturday: MLB Big Game Preview: either Seattle at Baltimore or LAA at Tampa Bay
Sunday: NFC East Preview to get you ready for the NY Giants vs. Buffalo in the Hall of Fame Game!
College football coverage hands off to the NFL this coming weekend…and then we’ll knock out all eight pro football divisions in the first few weeks of Exhibition action.
We told you the summer would fly by. IT IS FLYING BY! Make sure cash is flying into your coffers from all the BIG, JUICY WINNERS available at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!