Only once during this shortened major-league baseball season have the Pittsburgh Pirates won three games in a row. But they have lost three or more consecutive games five times in their first 46 games, with 14 remaining starting with last night’s game in Cincinnati.
Winning all of their 14 remaining games — yeah, right — would still leave them 28-32, four games under .500.
The 2020 Pirates would have to improve to be horrible. Even with the realization that the first 60 games didn’t reveal much about the end of the 2019 seasons, remember that last year’s Washington Nationals World Series champs were 27-33, sitting in fourth place in the National League East, and out of the playoff picture after 60 games.
Even with that in mind, judging performances of a shortened season with about 15 games left for most teams (25 percent of the season remaining) leaves us with these obvious (to me) points.
• Dovydas Neverauskas should never be allowed inside another Pirates bullpen, let alone stand on a game mound. Yes, his 7.50 ERA this year is better than 2018’s 8.00 ERA or 2019’s 10.61 ERA. His four-year Pittsburgh career shows a 1-4 record and 6.89 lifetime ERA in 75 games. The first Lithuanian pitcher in the big leagues hasn’t exactly left major-league scouts scouring the Baltic state for another, even though the second such hurler would surely be the country’s best MLB pitcher ever.
• Gregory Polanco and his $8.6 million salary will become "Gregory Polanco and his $11.6 million salary" next season. This season, Polanco has exactly three times the number of strikeouts (51) as hits (17) and deserves a permanent seat on the Pittsburgh bench.
But trying to unload a player who bats .147, can’t field, can’t throw, can’t run, and can’t slide can be traded only if the team eats most of his 2021 paycheck. And unfortunately, at this point of the season, who cares if the team wins its final 14 games. So as frustrating as it is to watch, it makes sense for manager Derek Shelton to run Polanco out there in hopes that he can raise his average by 53 points, getting him to the Mendoza line.
Or maybe they could put a Polanco cardboard cutout in the game, which would flat-out improve Polanco’s stats.
• Remember how Ray Searage was the greatest pitching coach in MLB history? Remember how Ray Searage was the greatest detriment to the development of young Pirate hurlers, who could achieve success only when they left Pittsburgh? Perhaps it’s the latest example of the Charles Dillon Stengel syndrome. During his 12 years as Yankees manager, Casey Stengel’s teams won 10 American League pennants, including five in a row, and seven World Series titles as Stengel set records with 37 World Series games won and with 63 World Series games managed.
Fired after his Yankees lost the Series to the 1960 Pirates, Stengel was named manager of the expansion Mets in 1962, retiring after four seasons and more than 400 losses. What … you say his successes were with great players while his failures were with castoffs?
• Sixty percent of this season’s starting rotation--Trevor Williams (1-7), Joe Musgrove (0-4), and Steven Brault (0-3)—share one slim win and 14 losses. After Williams posted a second-best-in-MLB 1.38 ERA in his final 12 starts in 2018, winning seven (14-10 season record), the Pirates were expecting more than the 7-9 record and an ERA two runs higher, which Williams posted in 2019.
Williams, Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, and Mitch Keller were expected at one time to anchor the 2020 starting staff. Even with Archer cut this fall, how much faith do you have the remaining four will be solid in 2021?
• Maybe they aren’t as good as they were in 2019, but if 2020 exposed the real Bryan Reynolds, Kevin Newman, Josh Bell, and Adam Frazier, this organization will be in trouble for years to come.
Say it ain’t so.