Why Travis Ishikawa Could Be the Missing Piece in Pittsburgh Pirates' Lineup

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IApril 9, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates' Travis Ishikawa, right, celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo-home run off St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Shelby Miller during the fourth  inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Friday, April 4, 2014. It was Alvarez's second homer of the game. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar

After making his major league debut in 2006 and playing in 12 games for the San Francisco Giants, Travis Ishikawa has been back and forth from the minors to the majors throughout his career. 

In 2013 Ishikawa played in only seven major league games during his time with both the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees

This season, the 30-year-old first baseman is making his case as the primary first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who still have Gaby Sanchez listed as their starting first baseman on their team depth chart. 

Ishikawa had a pretty solid spring training in 2014, batting .290 with three home runs in 31 at bats.  Through the Pirates' first eight games of the season, Ishikawa already has started seven of them.  In those games, he has hit one home run and driven in three runs for Pittsburgh.   

Sanchez has been on the bench for the Pirates because of the lack of lefty pitchers in the National League Central.  He is just a .242 career hitter against right-handed pitchers, while he has mastered hitting against lefties, batting .301. 

With Sanchez on the bench, Ishikawa is beginning to blossom into an everyday major league player, and he could be a huge factor for the Pirates in 2014. 

According to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Pirates' manager Clint Hurdle has plenty of confidence in Ishikawa.  "“Based on the spring Travis has had this year, I do try and read something into spring training swings to get some momentum, to get some traction with the lineup,” Hurdle said.

The Pirates already have established hitters in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte and Neil Walker. 

Meanwhile, the Pirates have three quality starters right now in Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton. 

However, if Ishikawa continues to produce the way he has so far this season, the Pirates will be that much more dangerous, as they will have a much more well-rounded lineup. 

According to the same article by Bill Brink, Ishikawa showed how disciplined he is at the plate and how much we wants to succeed with the Pirates in 2014.  “I’m going to put forth competitive at-bats and, hopefully, make the pitcher work, so if I don’t get the hit, maybe the guy behind me will get one served up and he’ll do the damage,” Ishikawa said. 

So far, he has performed very well for the Pirates, making him the potential starter for the Pirates throughout much of the season. 

While the season is still young and there are still too many games left to determine whether Ishikawa will continue his hot hitting, he deserves to remain in that lineup based on both his spring and early regular season statistics. 

If he continues to succeed, Ishikawa could be a major difference-maker for the Pirates as they try to get back to the postseason for the second straight year. 


*Statistics Courtesy of Baseball Reference