Originally written on Pirates Prospects  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Dave Cameron of FanGraphs had a few interesting tweets about the Pirates offense this morning. I keep hearing that the Pirates can't hit. Their non-pitchers have the 11th best wRC+ in baseball. http://t.co/X8M0Jytf3b — David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 9, 2013 Of the eight PIT batters with 200+ PA, seven of them have been above average offensively this year. http://t.co/IgO2equ0HN — David Cameron (@DCameronFG) July 9, 2013 Lately it seems like the Pirates can’t hit anything, and that’s probably because they’ve scored one run in three of the last four games. But the offense hasn’t been terrible. Cameron uses Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), which measures a players runs created to the league average. The league average is 100, and every point above or below is a percentage point. Thus, the 134 for Andrew McCutchen means he is 34% above the league average, while the 75% from Travis Snider means he is 25% below the league average in runs created. Cameron highlighted the guys who are getting a lot of playing time, although if you look beyond those guys, the bench looks pretty horrid. The Garrett Jones (104 wRC+) / Gaby Sanchez (115) platoon takes up one bench spot. Jose Tabata (135) and Travis Snider (75) take up another. From there, it’s not good. Michael McKenry (59) Clint Barmes (43) Brandon Inge (22) All three of those guys have been horrible offensively this year. McKenry has been horrible on defense, and if Tony Sanchez didn’t have some recent throwing problems, the Pirates could probably easily make a change. They might even consider that soon. Clint Barmes and Brandon Inge are basically the same player. Neither have value offensively, both have value defensively and for their leadership, and the Pirates really only need one of them on the bench. If you look at the actual wRC from Inge, the number is 2. He has been worth two runs offensively this year. By comparison, “Awful” is usually set at 40. Inge is on pace for 4 wRC this year, which means if the Pirates replaced him with an “Awful” hitter, they’d see an upgrade of 36 wRC, or about 18 over the remainder of the year. It seems the simple solution is to upgrade the bench. But that doesn’t address a bigger issue with the Pirates offense. Take a look at the following starting lineups against left handers and right handers. VS Right Handed Pitching C – Russell Martin (113 wRC+) 1B – Garrett Jones (114) 2B – Neil Walker (130) SS – Jordy Mercer (64) 3B – Pedro Alvarez (140) LF – Starling Marte (108) CF – Andrew McCutchen (124) RF – Jose Tabata (168) Jones has been struggling lately, which has brought his numbers down. Mercer is below average, although he’s an upgrade over Barmes (58 wRC+). Jose Tabata’s numbers are amazing, but come with a sample of 78 PA. By comparison, Travis Snider has an 84 wRC+ in 219 PA, so he’s not really a good option. Overall, this is a good lineup against right-handers. Jose Tabata is one of three starters that struggles against left-handed pitching. (Photo Credit: David Hague) VS Left Handed Pitching C – Russell Martin (129 wRC+) 1B – Gaby Sanchez (177) 2B – Neil Walker (25) SS – Jordy Mercer (225) 3B – Pedro Alvarez (76) LF – Starling Marte (192) CF – Andrew McCutchen (182) RF – Jose Tabata (62) With left-handed pitching numbers, you’re going to see some small sample sizes. For example, Jordy Mercer has just 39 PA against lefties. Most of the full season starters are around 70 PA. Martin, Sanchez, Marte, and McCutchen all have good track records against lefties, either in the majors or minors, so there’s not much reason to doubt them. There are three key spots here where the Pirates could upgrade. Neil Walker’s numbers are lowered due to sample size, but he’s been bad in his career vs lefties, with an 80 wRC+. We’re starting to see a lot of teams turning Walker around by bringing in left-handers, so other teams are catching on to his issues. Pedro Alvarez is right around his career totals. He’s a 76 wRC+ this year, and 74 in his career. I noted before the season that he had shown improvements in his power against lefties. Those improvements seem to have stopped. 2010: .114 ISO 2011: .132 ISO 2012: .171 ISO 2013: .159 ISO He saw a power increase two years in a row, but that hasn’t increased again this year. No one likes the “Platoon Pedro Alvarez” talk. It is usually countered with his season numbers (.833 OPS, 23 HR). However, that production comes mostly from right-handers. Alvarez has an .884 OPS against right-handers, with 20 of his homers in 220 AB (11.0 AB/HR). He has a .629 OPS and 3 homers in 69 AB against left-handers (23.0 AB/HR). There’s some power against lefties, but he actually hits for average and gets on base against right-handers. You’re still getting almost all of his production in a platoon, and the production you’d lose would probably be replaced and improved upon by someone who could hit left-handers. Finally there’s Jose Tabata (62 wRC+ vs LHP) and Travis Snider (-6). Neither have been good in their careers against left-handers. Unless the Pirates wanted to carry five outfielders, they would probably have to decide on one of these two. Tabata has been performing better against right-handers, although in a smaller sample. No matter who you choose, you’re probably going to need a platoon. Or just an everyday right-fielder to avoid having four platoon players on your bench. Upgrade From the Top Down A lot of people will point to the bench problems and say “fix the bench”. But that shouldn’t be the focus. The focus should be upgrading more important parts of the team. If you add an everyday right-fielder, then you move Jose Tabata and/or Travis Snider to the bench, which would be an upgrade over Brandon Inge and/or Clint Barmes. If you add a platoon player, you’re upgrading the lineup when the team plays left-handers, which has more impact than upgrading a bench spot. But since Inge isn’t hitting anyone, you’d also upgrade a bench spot when the team is playing right-handers. I know that it draws more attention when there’s a close game, and guys like Inge or McKenry are the only options available off the bench late in the game. However, a bigger impact could be made by improving the lineup against left-handers. Right now the Pirates lineup has some holes against lefties. When a team brings in a lefty reliever, then the Alvarez/Walker/Jones trio is neutralized. You can bring in Gaby Sanchez for Jones, but there’s no one to counter that move for Walker or Alvarez. And even if you’re talking about hitting against right-handers, the platoon options might not be great, but they would certainly be better than what the Pirates have now from their bench. Links and Notes **Download the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 12: Prospect Analysis on Jameson Taillon, Luis Heredia, and Tyler Glasnow. Also includes an interview with 2013 first round pick Reese McGuire. **The newest episode of the Pirates Roundtable is up. This week we had Jim Rosati from North Side Notch, Ed Giles from In Clemente Weather, and David Manel of Bucs Dugout stopped by. **2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Draft Pick Signing Tracker. **2013 Pittsburgh Pirates International Signing Tracker. Prospects **Prospect Watch: Taking a Closer Look At Tyler Glasnow’s Impressive Numbers. **Minor League Schedule: Heredia Looks To Continue Strong Start To Season. **DSL Prospect Watch: Losing Streaks For Both Pirates Affiliates. Pirates **Pirates Collect Only Three Hits to Lose Fourth-Straight Game. **Pirates Notebook: When Will the Bucs Play the Best 25? **Pirates Place Neil Walker on Disabled List, Recall Josh Harrison. **Pirates Had a Scout Watching Matt Garza.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: 49ers looking for young, offensive mind as next coach

Sheldon Richardson: I'm on the same level as JJ Watt

Kendrick Perkins: Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston

Report: Jim Harbaugh being encouraged to take Michigan job

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Wolves trade Corey Brewer to the Rockets

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Yankees trade Prado to Marlins for Eovaldi in 5-player deal

Brandon Browner fined $8K for throwing Brandon Gibson to turf

Report: Sharper, NFLers called spiked drinks 'horny juice'

Rex Ryan: My wife could coach Tom Brady

Jim Harbaugh won in laser tag by 'hunting' 10-year-old kid

Eddie Lacy is ‘very blind,’ refuses to wear goggles

UNC wearing Jordan-era throwback uniforms

Brian Kelly: Justin Brent gets 'distracted,' is in my doghouse

Five free agent signings that should happen in 2015

Reporter asks Rajon Rondo awkward question about trade

Video: Swaggy P elbows Steven Adams in throat, gets ejected

Video: Grizzlies buy car for assistant who had his stolen

Video: LeBron takes pass to the face from Dion Waiters

New video of Ray Rice incident emerges

President Obama calls James Franco “James Flacco”

NBA games of the weekend: Rondo's Dallas debut, Bulls-Grizz

Tuscaloosa students will have two days off if Bama plays in National Championship

Brady scares the **** out of his teammates celebrating

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

UNC rocking Jordan-era throwbacks

Reporter asks Rondo awkward question

Three quarterbacks who could be traded this offseason

Jon Lester and the Cubs

Report: NFL players used 'horny juice'

Top 10 worst NBA related commercials of all-time

Phelps gets probation for DUI

NFL coaches on hot seat in Week 16

The Roy Williams-Terrell Owens horse collar turns 10

Most underpaid NFL players in 2014

Gronk jokes about Brady compliment

In Matt Kemp, did the Dodgers find a pigeon in Padres?

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.