The Pittsburgh Pirates are 14-20 going into this afternoon’s game against the Cubs. This is not good. Their expected performance (based on the Pythagorean model) says they have actually over achieved to this point and should be 8-26. However you look at it, there are some major issues on this team.
One issue that has gotten major attention over the last week-plus is the profound struggles of second baseman Akinori Iwamura. The 31 year old had a major knee injury last year and is hitting just .169/.267/.246 for a .512 OPS. It doesn’t matter what team you’re on at any level, those numbers should and will send you to the bench.
Here is a rundown of the articles that have been written. There is some overlap in these, but I encourage you to follow the links and read each article:
May 4: Dejan Kovacevic at the Post-Gazette talked to Aki, who claims to be completely healthy.
May 10: Kipper at Pittsburgh Sports Tavern notices that Aki has gained some weight and brings up his BABIP (batting average on balls in play).
May 12: Fangraphs‘ R.J. Anderson brings up his increased groundball percentage.
May 13: MarkInDallas on Bucs Dugout counts down the days till he thinks Neil Walker will be called up to play second.
May 14: Pittsburgh Lumber Co.‘s Matt Bandi offers a very comprehensive look, which outlines many of the points in the other articles.
May 14: MLB.com‘s Jenifer Langosch has promised an article for later today with quotes from manager John Russell. I will link to it when it appears. UPDATE: Here’s Jen’s article. Huntington uses the small sample size defense, which still has validity after just a month of AB’s. Russell says there aren’t any other good options at 2B or leadoff on the roster. Jen points out that both of these answers ignore the bigger picture options of either promoting Neil Walker or moving Andy LaRoche to 2B in anticipation of Pedro Alvarez’s forthcoming ascension.
All of these are well written so there’s not much left for me to add. I was in favor or the trade for Aki when it happened. Any time you can trade your third or fourth best reliever for an everyday player is a no-brainer. His approach at the plate has been great – he works counts and draws walks. Very important skills for a top of the order hitter. But until Aki can start squaring up on the ball and driving it he just won’t effective. I hope he can snap out of it soon.