Who woke up the Pirates offense after the all-star break? Whoever it was, what took you so long? The Pirates entered the break with pretty much the worse offense in baseball. It looked like it would be another long and dreadful summer, but the Bucs have come out swinging the sticks to begin the second half of the season.
So far, in six games after the all-star break, the Pirates have scored 50 runs on 77 hits, going 4-2 in that span. That averages out to a major league best 8.3 runs per game and 12.8 hits per game. Looking just at the wins after the break, the Pirates are averaging 11.75 runs and 16.25 hits. While I'm not suggesting we are looking at the 1927 Yankees, it has been a nice change of pace from what we've been used to seeing from the Pirates bats of late.
What's the reason for the hot streak? I don't want to hear that they have been playing bad teams. They have, but those same two bad teams (Houston and Milwaukee) have owned the Pirates up to this point of the season.
The main reason for the success is the approach. We haven't seen hitters chasing many balls out of the zone. They've been waiting for good pitches and when they get them, they are putting good swings on the ball. Another thing I like is that the Pirates have been more aggressive early in the count. They haven't been digging themselves into an 0-2 hole every at bat. They've been jumping on fastballs early, which is a good approach to have for a young team.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Pirates have been hitting well, without the services of Andrew McCutchen, who has missed the last three games nursing a shoulder injury.
Let's take a look at some numbers through the six games after the all-star break.
McCutchen- 4-12 (.333), 3 RBI's before he got hurt.
Jose Tabata- 10-27 (.370), 6 RBI's.
Neil Walker- 14-26 (.538), 7 RBI's.
Garrett Jones- 6-24 (.250), 1 HR, 5 RBI's.
Pedro Alvarez- 10-24 (.417), 4 HR's, 10 RBI's.
Lastings Milledge- 9-24 (.375), 4 RBI's.
Ronny Cedeno- 10-24 (.417), 2 RBI's.
Delwyn Young- 5-7 (.714), 1 HR, 6 RBI's.
As you can see, everyone other than the catcher platoon of Eric Kratz and Ryan Doumit (combined .192) are hitting well coming out of the break. Not only that, but they are driving in runs and hitting for power. The Bucs have combined for 29 extra base hits in the six games, something that has bee a huge problem all season.
I'm not suggesting that this torrid streak will continue, but it gives you a glimpse at what the Pirates could be capable of. Two things stick out at me. One is the fact that Lastings Milledge is playing everyday. Having a guy hitting a respectable .285 in the middle of the lineup is a major upgrade over a platoon with Ryan Church (currently hitting .190).
The other thing is that the rookies are starting to become legit major league ball players. They've made the lineup deeper and more effective. It was just 14 games ago that Alvarez was hitting .065. He has quietly got the average up to .259 with seven HR's and 20 RBI's in just 29 games.
Tabata looks like he is becoming a guy that will be a fixture in left field. He's hitting .266 and has a great approach and a knack for getting on base.
Walker's bat has been the biggest surprise for me, hitting .319. If the youngsters can keep getting on base and coming up with big hits, the rest of the lineup will prosper. All three of the rookies should see their numbers go up during the final few months of the season.
They still have a few holes, but at least for a few game stretch, we may have seen a glimpse of what could be a productive Pirates offense in the future. If they've done anything this last week, they saved John Russell's job for the near future.