Series #16: Looking Into The Mirror With The Mets

Series Quick Look
Friday, May 26, 7:05PM
Saturday, May 27, 7:15PM
Sunday, May 28, 8:00PM
at PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA

The Pirates (22-26) will face the Mets (19-26). Both teams have struggled to meet expectations as both teams have been without a large chunk of their roster. This will be the first time these two teams face each other this year. The Pirates are 12-9 at home while the Mets are 8-11 on the road. The Pirates come into this game winning six of their last 10 whereas the Mets who have struggled mightily recently are entering winning just three of their last 10. Though the most recent records are much different, these two teams are very similar in their issues. Neither made a splash this offseason and were banking on the production their current core would provide. Thanks to a plethora of injuries and circumstances to players on both teams, they each find their playoff hopes diminishing this year.

ALL-TIME RECORD: Pirates lead 382-349
Last matchup…June 14-16, 2016. Pirates lost two out of three that series in New York, being outscored 17-10.

About the Mets:
The Mets finished second in the NL East last year with a record of 87-75. This offseason, they stood about as pat as you could by not signing one player to their 40-man roster (imagine that). With all injuries they faced last year, they felt they would have quite the addition by simply getting those key players back. Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Lucas Duda, David Wright and Travis d’Arnaud, missed an enormous amount of time last year. All of these players not named David Wright were slated for a sizable amount of healthy playing time this year. Unfortunately, much like the Pirates past two season, that plan has not held together. Duda, Juan Lagares, Wilmer Flores, d’Arnaud, Seth Lugo, Matz, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Yoenis Cespedes have all seen some time on the DL while Noah Syndergaard and Jeurys Familia seem to be out for most if not the remainder of the season.

If the injuries weren’t bad enough, the guys they do have healthy on the roster are not performing to par. Jose Reyes and Curtis Granderson have been battling the Mendoza Line all year. Matt Harvey and Robert Gsellman both have ERA’s over 5. The bullpen, which has been a staple of this organization, currently holds the 27th worst ERA in baseball. If there has been a bright spot, you can say it has been with 24-year-old Michael Conforto who is sporting a 185 wRC+.


5/26: RHP Chad Kuhl (5.85 ERA/3.78 FIP, 92 FIP-) vs.
RHP Jacob deGrom (3.56 ERA/3.23 FIP, 76 FIP-)

Chad Kuhl continues his roller coaster season in 2017. In six games he has allowed two earned runs or less while three games he has allowed three or more. Truly, most of his damage has been done in just one game verse the Cubs where he allowed nine earned runs in 1.2 innings. If you dismiss that game, Kuhl owns a 4.02 ERA which would be good for a slightly above average ERA. He also is coming off possibly the best game he pitched this year as he blanked the Phillies while allowing just one hit and two walks in five innings. The Pirates will face the current Mets ace of their staff in deGrom. Jacob has been as solid as they come this year giving his team a chance to win as he has only allowed more than three runs twice in the nine games he started. His outstanding 12.29 K/9 ranks third in baseball and is up nearly three strikeouts on his career average. Let’s just say that the Pirates will be glad to face the bullpen in the series opener.

5/27: RHP Gerrit Cole (3.36 ERA/3.93 FIP, 95 FIP-) vs.
RHP Zack Wheeler (3.74 ERA/4.21 FIP, 99 FIP-)

What was just said about deGrom giving his team a chance to win holds true here for Gerrit Cole. In the 10 starts he has made this year, seven of them he has given up two runs or less. Unfortunately the run support has not been there which has led to Cole ‘earning’ just two wins on the year. He appears to be attacking hitters again this year and his 5.2 BB% rate ranks 10th in MLB. Unfortunately the long ball has plagued him and he ranks 56th among qualified starters with his 1.31 HR/9 rate. What looked like early in the season of Cole relying too much on his fastball has been quite the opposite. He is using his changeup almost a full 8% more than he has in his career which has become a very effective pitch for him this year. As for Zack Wheeler, he made an impact on the mound much sooner than many had anticipated this year and he has really come on of late. In his past six starts he owns a 2.67 ERA, though that comes with a 4.46 FIP. His 4.81 BB/9 rate during that time is less than stellar as he showing signs of struggling to hit the strike zone. Pittsburgh needs to be patient and take their 3.95 pitches per plate appearance which is good for 7th in MLB to work these counts.

5/28: RHP Tyler Glasnow (6.69 ERA/5.34 FIP, 129 FIP-) vs.
RHP Matt Harvey (5.36 ERA/6.07 FIP, 142 FIP-)

The Sunday Night Baseball game is all set to quite the entertaining show. Instead of Clayton Kershaw vs. Jon Lester, the nation will get to see Glasnow vs Harvey. I say this because Harvey ranks 7th worse in FIP in all of MLB while Glasnow ranks 12th worse among starters who have logged a minimum of 40 innings. Glasnow has shown signs of promise in recent games, but he has been unable to go out and show he is a top prospect in baseball as many predicted him to be. His most successful start came in his last appearance as he went 6 innings of two run baseball. He allowed nine hits and two walks while he struck out four. If he can build upon that and shut down a Mets offense that is struggling, he might be able to show the world his name deserves to be on the top lists. What could help Glasnow is the demise of Matt Harvey. Much like what Pirates fans are seeing in Andrew McCutchen this year, Harvey has plummeted from stardom. It was just in 2015 when he completed his third season and owned a career 2.53 ERA 9.5 K/9 and 2 BB/9 rate. Now over the past two seasons he has a 5.03 ERA while his K/9 rate has fallen to 7.1 and his BB/9 increased to 3.2. He is also allowing 1.2 home runs in that span. He is allowing barrels on 6.3% of his plate appearances.


TV (Friday): ROOT Sports Pittsburgh and Sportsnet New York (SNY)
(Saturday): FOX
(Sunday): ESPN
Radio (All games): KDKA-FM 93.7

Jung Ho Kang (3B): Restricted List (March 11)—Work visa denied.
Starling Marte (OF): Suspended 80 games (April 18)—Use of PED’s.
Antonio Bastardo (P): 10-Day DL (April 25)—Left quad strain.
Jameson Taillon (P): 10-Day DL (May 6)—Recovering from testicular cancer surgery.
Josh Lindblom (P): 10-day DL (May 20)—Left side discomfort.

Asdrubal Cabrera (SS): 10-day DL (May 22)—Sprained left thumb.
Yoenis Cespedes (OF): 10-day DL (May 25)—Hamstring strain.
Jeurys Familia (P): 60-day DL (May 16)—Arterial clot in his right shoulder.
Seth Lugo (P): 10-day DL (May 16)—Partial UCL tear.
Steven Matz (P): 10-day DL (April 1)—Flexor tendon strain.
Tommy Milone (P): 10-day DL (May 24)—Left knee sprain.
Noah Syndergaard (P): 60-day DL (May 7)—Partial tear in right lat muscle.
David Wright (3B): 60-day DL (April 1)—Right shoulder impingement.

It should come as no surprise because he’s hit at every level of his career, but Adam Frazier is raking for the Bucs. Coming into this series, Frazier is hitting .361/.446/.515 with a 159 wRC+. He’s making contact on 87.1% of the pitches he swings at and couples that with the highest line drive percentage in MLB as well. You can read more about Frazier here, but just know that he is playing incredible baseball right now and will look forward to facing the Mets pitching this weekend. The Bucs are 12-10 with Frazier in the starting lineup in 2017.

The Mets pitching was viewed as a clear strength and possibly the best in baseball. After all the injuries to this team and underwhelming performances, the Mets currently rank 28th in team ERA and 17th in FIP. Harvey has been a bottom 10% pitcher all season while they haven’t really found any answers after deGrom. The bullpen is now without Familia and is lost after Jerry Blevins and Paul Sewald. The Mets also give up 1.41 HR/9 which ranks 5th worse in baseball.

Through all of the Mets struggles they have had a budding star unfolding that not many people have been able to recognize. Michael Conforto has been bounced around between the majors and minors since his callup in 2015 but seems to finally have found a permanent home in New York. This season he is slashing .341/.437/.712 with a 187 wRC+, which ranks him sixth in baseball. He is rocking a .457 wOBA and a .358 ISO. Clearly this young talent is tearing the cover off of the ball. He has 13 home runs currently, and his 10.1% Barrels per plate appearance ranks him 9th in MLB just behind Mike Trout. If the Pirates need to pitch around one player on this team, this is your man.

Yes, the Pirates came to Atlanta to play another series, and yes, Andrew McCutchen was benched for multiple games during it. He came out stating that he is aware of his issues and here is to hoping he will come out of Atlanta a new player much like last season. Do I hold much value into this testament, not quite. Though, the fact that he states he knows what he is doing wrong is somewhat encouraging. Cutch could have come out and said it’s early and to get off of his back, but he identified that he is struggling and there are possibly brighter days ahead of him. To be honest, when you are slashing .203/.274/.360 with a 70 wRC+, there really isn’t many places you can go besides up. Here’s to hoping All-Star Andrew McCutchen breaks out now. As stated on last week’s podcast, a Cutch turnaround is probably one of the top two things that NEED to happen if this team is going to make a playoff push.

Pittsburgh has won eight of the last 12 games and now faces the Mets six times in the next nine games. With the way they’re struggling, this presents a perfect early season run to pace themselves right behind the Cubs and Cardinals within the division. The schedule gets a bit tougher after that, so it is crucial to take advantage of these two series when the Mets are down. As nobody is running away with the NL Central, the Pirates aren’t incapable of putting themselves within striking distance at the deadline. However, it is capitalizing on opportunities like this that will propel them towards the top of the standings.

The Pirates stay home to take on the Diamondbacks and then travel to take on the Mets again.

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