Grading the Pirates: The Position Players

Okay, this is about like grading the best disco songs ever, but somebody’s gotta do it.  There isn’t a curve shallow enough to give many passing grades for the worst Pirate team since the Rickey Dinks.  Let’s do it by groups, so my “F” key doesn’t break.

Catcher

This one turned out fine, all due to a guy whom the Pirates dfa’d twice.  Jacob Stallings slumped after a big first month, but he finished with an OPS that was almost exactly league average for his position.  He also played quality defense in every aspect, to the point where he looked totally out of place on this team.  Of course, the grade has to take into account John Ryan Murphy whiffing in 44% of his plate appearances.  In 2019, the average pitcher fanned in only 49% of PAs.

Grade:  B

Infield

Even a monster month from Ke’Bryan Hayes couldn’t save this bunch.  As we all know, Josh Bell, Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman completely collapsed at the plate, and Bell and Newman were terrible defensively.  Erik Gonzalez, after showing some life early, turned out to be  .  .  .  Erik Gonzalez!  Colin Moran was actually pretty decent at the plate, especially considering that he got a much larger percentage of his plate appearances against LHPs than ever before.  (It didn’t help his numbers, as the chances against LHPs resulted in a .651 OPS, as opposed to a strong .869 against RHPs.)  The end results break down pretty easily:  In fWAR, the Pirates ranked 23rd in the majors at first base, 20th at second, 10th at third despite just getting one month of Hayes, and 29th at short.

Grade:  D

Outfield

This was literally the worst-hitting outfield in baseball history, so there isn’t a lot to say about it.  Yes, Gregory Polanco and Bryan underperformed to almost unimaginable degrees, but there were a couple of other factors.  One was the Pirates’ continued, bizarre fixation on playing weak-hitting middle infielders in the outfield.  The other was Ben Cherington’s decision to fill the team’s obvious need for outfield bats with Jarrod Dyson, Guillermo Heredia and J.T. Riddle.  But more on that later.  In OF fWAR, the Pirates ranked dead last at -2.3.

Grade:  F—

Analysis

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