The Pittsburgh Pirates Need To Start Playing For 2017

While the Pittsburgh Pirates are not mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, their string of three consecutive postseason appearances is going to end this season. Due to this it is time the Pittsburgh Pirates begin playing for the 2017 season.

Unfortunately, it appears the Pittsburgh Pirates will not make history this season. What history is it that I speak of? Well, the Pirates have never made the postseason in four consecutive seasons in the franchise’s history.

While the Pirates are not yet mathematically eliminated, it is going to take a near miracle for the Bucs to earn their fourth consecutive postseason berth. While this sucks, the Pirates are still primed to be contenders once again in 2017. Therefore, the Pirates need to start playing for 2017.

The 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates are set to return an awesome core. The Pirates’ offense should be especially potent in 2017. Especially with what we have seen in recent weeks.

After struggling for much of June and July, Jung Ho Kang has been on a tear since August. Since August 2nd Jung Ho Kang owns a .310/.420/.714/1.134 slash line, .467 wOBA, 199 wRC+, and a ISO of .405. And that is before he went 3-for-4 with a home run last night. 

Andrew McCutchen is another player that has shown a resurgence in recent weeks. The first four months of the 2016 season were miserable for McCutchen. However, since August 5th he has looked like his old self again.

In 132 plate appearances during this stretch McCutchen owns a .289/.386/.465/.821 slash line, .367 wOBA, a 133 wRC+, and an ISO of .175. Most encouraging, though, has been McCutchen’s 13.6 percent walk rate and 15.3 percent strike out rate.

During this stretch McCutchen has also looked the healthiest he has all season. He has played his best defense of the season, he has attempted steals more often, and he has run the bases better. Whatever was plaguing McCutchen earlier in the season appears to be gone.

Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte have both been fantastic at the plate all season long. Francisco Cervelli has turned into an on-base machine. Josh Bell has been solid since reaching the Major Leagues. And David Freese, Chris Stewart, Adam Frazier, and John Jaso are the core of a very strong bench. So, scoring runs should not be an issue for the 2017 Pirates.

Regardless of how much he is struggling, I would like to see Josh Bell starting at first base everyday the rest of the season. If nothing else, Bell needs the defense work at first base. Plus, he is not going to break out of his slump sitting on the bench.

Through his first 60 Major League plate appearance Josh Bell has looked like he belongs. He owns a .277/.400/.468/.888 slash line to go along with a .373 wOBA, 136 wRC+, .191 ISO, a 18.3 percent walk rate, and a 6.7 percent strikeout rate. However, in recent weeks he has struggled. Bell is just 2-for-23 in his last 23 at bats, but he will not over come this riding the pine as he has done the past four days.

Aug 17, 2016; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Felipe Rivero (73) throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports

To go along with playing Josh Bell everyday, I would also like to see the Pirates shake up their bullpen as a way to begin to play for 2017. Despite having a 1-2-3 ninth inning last night, I’d like to see Tony Watson removed from the closer’s role. While have a designated ‘closer’ is extremely stupid, unfortunately, every Major League team does it. Well, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ closer should be Felipe Rivero.

Felipe Rivero is under team control through 2022. He also has a plus fastball that sits in the high 90s, and he also throws a dominant change up. So, Rivero is the closer of the future for the Pirates anyway.

Rivero has also been dominant since being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 17 1/3 innings pitched as a Pirate Felipe Rivero has 26 strikeouts, a 1.38 WHIP, he’s allowed just one home run, and he has a 3.15 FIP. As I said, he has been dominant. It is time he becomes the Pirates’ ‘closer.’

Finally, there is one other area I would like to see the Pirates’ shake up down the stretch. That area is the starting rotation. It is time to start focusing on the guys who are the long-term answers for the Pirates.

Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl should continue to get the ball every fifth day. The same goes for Gerrit Cole when he returns from the disabled list on Monday in Philadelphia. Right now these three pitchers are the only three starting pitchers that, in my opinion, are locks to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2017 Opening Day rotation.

I believe that Steven Brault is best suited for the bullpen. Therefore, I would like to see him begin to work out of the bullpen. There is also Ryan Vogelsong who will not be on the Pirates in 2017, and has started to come back down to Earth (6.22 FIP, 5.38 xFIP) his last three starts. So Vogelsong, like Brault, should be moved to the bullpen in my opinion.

Mar 5, 2016; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (51) warms up before the start of the spring training game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

That leaves Ivan Nova. Nova continues to be fantastic as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Combine that with the fact the Pirates should be trying to resign Nova, and I would keep him in the rotation for the remainder of the season. This leaves just one spot for Trevor Williams, Tyler Glasnow, and Drew Hutchison, all of whom I would like to see make at least one start before the end of the season.

I would have these three starters rotate as the Bucs’ fifth starter the rest of the season. The Pirates could also move to a six man rotation. Skipping a start of Taillon’s or Kuhl’s to watch their innings is also an option. Regardless of what it takes, I want to see the young guys each get the chance to make at least one start before the end of the season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently four and a half games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second National League Wild Card spot. Unfortunately, the odds of them making up this ground in the season’s final 25 games is nearly zero. Therefore, the Pirates need to begin playing for 2017.

The moves discussed above are ones I would like to see the Pirates do to begin playing for 2017. The 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates should be one of the best teams in the National League. So there is nothing wrong with starting to prepare for 2017 now.

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