WEEKLY PIRATES REPORT
By John Perrotto
Though it may not seem so at times, the Pirates are not oblivious to the fact their offense is performing at near historically poor levels.
The Pirates are averaging 2.86 runs a game, which is the worst in the major leagues. No team has scored fewer runs in a full season since 1968, The Year of the Pitcher.
The Pirates are striking out in a whopping 24.3 of their plate appearances and walking in just 5.9 percent of their trips to the plate. Those are also the worst marks in the majors.
"We're very aware of what our weakness has been so far this season," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "However, our options are limited when it comes to helping the lineup. There isn't a whole lot we can do."
The Pirates have scoured the trade market for hitters and found nothing available but overpaid players who are off to bad starts. They already have four of those players on their roster in catcher Rod Barajas, shortstop Clint Barmes, corner infielder Casey McGehee and outfielder Nate McLouth.
One name that crossed the waiver wire in recent days was Toronto first baseman/outfielder Adam Lind. The 28-year-old left-handed batter hit 35 home runs in 2009 then followed that with seasons of 23 and 26 homers.
However, Lind was hitting just .186 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 34 games this season before being demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas late last week. Pirates' scouts have not filed good reports on Lind and did not feel it would be worth taking on the $13 million left on his contract, which is guaranteed through next season with three club options from 2014-16.
Further complicating matters is the Pirates don't have many options in the minor leagues. That was in evidence last Friday when they dipped down to Triple-A Indianapolis for outfielder Gorkys Hernandez, who was hitting .266 with two home runs, 14 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 38 games.
The only position player at Indianapolis who should at least be considered for promotion is shortstop Jordy Mercer, hitting .294 with a .377 on-base percentage. However, he also has just two home runs in 153 at-bats and there is no way Hurdle would bench Barmes, who he pushed for hard in the offseason, in favor for Mercer.
First baseman Matt Hague was a spring training sensation as he hit seven Grapefruit League home runs. However, he has just one dinger in 137 at-bats at Indianapolis to go with a .277 batting average.
Center fielder Starling Marte is the best prospect at Indy but his numbers aren't worthy of a promotion yet. He is hitting .260 with a .325 OBP, two homers and 12 steals in 40 games. The Pirates would like Marte to get a full season, or at least close to it, at Triple-A.
"You know, we've always kept an eye toward getting better internally and externally," manager Clint Hurdle said after Wednesday's 3-1 loss to the New York Mets at PNC Park. "We never don't look outside. We'd like to think we've given time to some guys here to right some things. You want to give that to guys who, on the back of their cards, shows they've done some good things. But at this point in time, we're definitely looking to generate some more offense. We're open-minded to when and if or where we can get it."
In other matters:
--The Pirates have softened their stance on Josh Harrison being nothing more than a bench player. While they don't feel Harrison plays any position well enough to be a regular, they do feel he adds enough offensively that they can move him around the diamond in a super utility role and potentially get him 400 at-bats this season.
--Third baseman Pedro Alvarez is 7-for-55 (.127) since being moved into the cleanup spot of the batting order. Yet the Pirates are hesitant to drop Alvarez down in the order or saying anything remotely critical about him because they feel his psyche is too fragile and his performance would suffer even more -- if that is possible.
--The Pirates have had serious internal discussions about releasing Nate McLouth, who is hitless in his last 21 at-bats, but the lack of better options is keeping him on the roster.
John Perrotto has covered the Pirates and Major League Baseball for 25 years.