By John Perrotto
The Pirates’ offense has yet to hit its stride nearly two months into the season.
The Pirates are 13th in National League in runs scored with an average of 3.65 a game. They are also 12th in on-base percentage (.311), 14th in batting average (.236) and 15th in slugging percentage (.356).
Manager Clint Hurdle has basically taken over the hitting coach responsibilities from Gregg Ritchie but that hasn’t sparked the Pirates’ hitters. Hurdle tried shuffling the batting order Wednesday with left fielder Jose Tabata batting leadoff and center fielder Andrew McCutchen in the No. 3 hole–the spots they occupied at the beginning of the season–but the Pirates lost 4-2 to the Atlanta Braves in 11 innings at PNC Park.
Other than moving guys around on the lineup card, there seems to little Hurdle or the Pirates can do to get an offensive jolt.
Class AAA Indianapolis has a few hitters having decent seasons but as one scout who regular covers the Pirates’ organization said, “There is nobody in that Indy lineup who will be a difference maker in the major leagues. Their ceilings, at best, are as bench players.”
Outfielder Alex Presley is having the best season as he is hitting .323 with five home runs, 22 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 47 games with a .366 on-base percentage and a .484 slugging percentage. However, the Pirates look at Presley as more of a fourth outfielder, feeling he does not have enough power to regularly play a corner spot in the major leagues and is not good enough defensively to play center.
Outfielder/first baseman John Bowker is hitting .348 with two homers and 15 RBIs in 17 games since being designated for assignment. Bowker did not have any starts among his 19 games played with the Pirates earlier this season, though, and it was very clear that Hurdle was not a fan of his.
Josh Harrison has a .314 batting average with two homers, nine RBIs and seven steals in 34 games and can play second base, third base, left field and right field. Like Presley, though, the Pirates don’t feel Harrison is good enough defensively to be a regular.
Matt Hague has driven in a team-high 27 runs in 47 games but lacks the power normally associated with a first baseman and is considered a fringe prospect. He has just three home runs in 173 at-bats and a .410 slugging percentage.
With no significant help on the horizon, the Pirates can only hope that their hitters start showing improvement as the season is about to pass the one-third mark.