The Pirates began the 2017 season at Fenway Park in an interleague battle with the Red Sox and finished the first half with a 10-run inning at historic Wrigley Field against the defending champion Cubs. In between that, there were a lot of subpar performances that led to a 42-47 first half. It wasn’t all bad, however, as we break down the first half by the numbers.
16—Josh Bell‘s home run total at the break, the most by a Pirates rookie in the first half ever. Bell’s 16 bombs are one better than Ralph Kiner‘s 15 in his rookie season of 1946. That’s good company to be around. Kiner slowed down in the second half and finished with 23 as Jason Bay holds the record for most home runs by a rookie with 26 in 2004 when Bay earned the Rookie of the Year award. Bell needs 11 dingers in the second half to eclipse Bay’s record. Overall, only four Pirates rookies have hit at least 20 home runs in their rookie season—Bay, Kiner, Johnny Rizzo (23 in 1938) and Garrett Jones (21 in 2009). The full list is below of any Pirates hitter who’s hit 15 in their rookie season.
|1||Jason Bay (RoY-1st)||26||2004||25||120||472||411||61||116||24||82||41||129||.282||.358||.550||.907||*7/H8|
|4||Garrett Jones (RoY-7th)||21||2009||28||82||358||314||45||92||21||44||40||76||.293||.372||.567||.938||937|
|5||Al Martin (RoY-5th)||18||1993||25||143||528||480||85||135||26||64||42||122||.281||.338||.481||.820||*78H/9|
|6||Al Oliver (RoY-2nd)||17||1969||22||129||502||463||55||132||19||70||21||38||.285||.333||.445||.778||*37/H9|
|12||Barry Bonds (RoY-6th)||16||1986||21||113||484||413||72||92||26||48||65||102||.223||.330||.416||.746||*8/H|
|15||Jung Ho Kang||15||2015||28||126||467||421||60||121||24||58||28||99||.287||.355||.461||.816||*56H|
|16||Warren Morris (RoY-3rd)||15||1999||25||147||581||511||65||147||20||73||59||88||.288||.360||.427||.787||*4/H|
.294/.380/.528—Andrew McCutchen‘s slash line at the break, which is incredible considering where he stood on the morning of May 24. Cutch was hitting .200/.271/.359 for a .630 OPS. His OPS now sits at .909 with a 140 wRC+ after an amazing 41 games that saw him hit .404/.497/.726 in that time. Yes, McCutchen has been getting on base nearly half of his at-bats for more than a month. His wOBA increased more than 100 points from .273 on May 24 to .384. He also leads the team with 17 home runs in the first half. His slash line at this All-Star break is actually his third best numbers in the first half of his career with only 2012 and ’14. He has better numbers than his 2013 season at this point, the year when he won his NL MVP title. I’m not sure what clicked for Cutch, but stay hot, Cutch, stay hot.
120.2—Ivan Nova‘s inning total from the first half, which not only leads the team but would have almost led last year’s team as well. We wrote about this last offseason, but Jeff Locke leading the team in 2016 with 127 innings tells you everything you need to know about the problems their rotation had last season. Nova has been a breath of fresh air to this team and rotation. His efficient, pound the strike zones and gets out through contract has been great in the first half. Nova’s 120 innings is the most in the first half by a Pirates pitcher since Paul Maholm‘s 121.2 in 2011. in His 3.21 ERA ranks second among the Bucs starters behind only Jameson Taillon and Nova has been Mr. Consistent with 18 solid starts this season. He’s gone the deepest into games this season and leads the National League with two complete games. Everyone expects Nova to revert back to his Yankees ways and with a 4.21 FIP, there probably is regression coming. But since Nova put on the black and gold, he’s been an efficient, solid workhorse for the Pirates.
20—The inconceivable number of times Josh Harrison has been plunked by a baseball to earn a walk to first base in the first half. Most players get hit by a pitch maybe a handful of times throughout a season. Not JHay, he leads MLB in hit by pitch and it’s not even close. JHay is a good six HBP ahead of the Marlins Derek Dietrich. His previous season high was only seven in 2015 and 2012. It got so ridiculous that at one point, JHay was hit by the pitch in four consecutive at-bats. There’s no explaining it, but it just keeps happening. Harrison is enjoying a nice first half, which earned him his second All-Star appearance this week, but his career high .361 OBP may be a bit skewed by the nearly two dozen HBP in 85 games. It’s hard to say if this bizarre trend will continue into the second half, but he’s only 11 away from catching Jason Kendall‘s franchise record of 31 HBP in 1998 AND 1997.
0.76—The minuscule number of Felipe Rivero‘s first half ERA. Rivero has the lowest ERA for any Pirates pitcher with a minimum of 40 appearances in the first half. Only Mark Melancon‘s 0.81 ERA in 45 first half games in 2013 comes close. Rivero’s ERA is the lowest in baseball among all relievers, ahead of Kenley Jansen‘s 0.96 ERA. He’s also first in games, fifth in total innings (47.1) and third in WPA (Win Probability Added) at 2.78. Hurdle has used Rivero a lot to try and get by what has been overall a struggling bullpen. I’m not sure if fans have realized just how good Rivero has been at the age of 25, but he’s been completely dominant.
10—The amount of runs the Pirates dropped on Jon Lester Sunday afternoon in the first inning in a 14-3 pounding of the Cubs. It was the most runs the Pirates scored in one inning since they scored 10 on the Rockies in 2009. The last time the Bucs scored 10 runs in the first inning on the road was back on June 8, 1989 against the Phillies…and that ended up being a 15-11 loss! This game Sunday however was a victory though and closed the first half on a positive note. It’ll be tough to top this game on the fun meter.
The first half was frustrating for the most part, but despite the losses of Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte, it says something about this team for the way they keep battling. They finished the half winning five-out-of-six and we’ll soon find out what’s in store for this team in their final 73 games (44 divisional games) of the 2017 season.