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Pittsburgh Pirates 2023 Mid-Season Report

One of the more positively surprising teams to this point in the 2023 MLB season is the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After an absolutely torrid start to April, the Pittsburgh Pirates are showing that they are one of the better teams in a weaker NL Central. However, the Buccos are down a key star. SS Oneil Cruz broke his ankle sliding into home plate back in April, but good news is that he may return later in the summer.

Unfortunately, since the hot start, the Pirates have cooled down quite a bit, but still remain as a contender for a division crown. Pittsburgh also seemed like a bit of a sleeper team in one noteworthy pre-season prediction.

For more mid-season reports, check out the latest on the Cleveland Guardians.

Pittsburgh Pirates Mid-Season Recap: Hot Start, But Cooling Off

Out of the gate, the Pirates were one of the more unexpected hot starts of the 2023 campaign. After the conclusion of April, Pittsburgh touted a 21-9 record and a top mark in the NL Central. Since the calendar flipped to May and into June, however, they’ve fallen into a major slump. As of this point, the Pirates are now seven games under .500 (35-42) and have not won series since June 9-11 against the Mets.

One of the positives is the resurgence of OF/DH Andrew McCutchen. After a bit of a slow start, McCutchen’s average has healthily rebounded to .271. McCutchen is one of the veteran presences on a young Pirates team, and he is looked to as a mentor.

Offense Team Stats

The Pirates are still going through some offensive struggles. Through their first 77 games, the team is near the bottom of the National League in hits (599), home runs (69), batting average (.237), and on-base percentage (.315). One bright spot, however, is young OF Jack Suwinski. Through 67 games, his average is better than last season’s to this point. A .217 batting average is where the former William H. Taft High School Eagle (Illinois) sits. Suwinski also leads the squad in home runs (15) and slugging percentage (.478).

If the Pirates want to make a run for the postseason, however, they will need to add a big bopper of a bat. Or, at least, someone who can bring the batting average up. Speed is a big boost to an offense, however. The Pirates are third in the Senior Circuit in stolen bases with 77.

Pittsburgh Pirates Mid-Season Recap: Pitching Stats

The pitching is a question mark that looks to be middling for the Pirates. A true ace has emerged on this year’s staff, however. That man is SP Mitch Keller. After 16 starts, Keller leads the team with an impressive 8-3 record and a steady 3.45 ERA. At the rate he is currently going, he will set a new personal best in innings pitched (after throwing 159 last season) and potentially ERA (career-best is 2.91 in the COVID-shortened 2020 season). He could also set a new personal best in strikeouts (currently at 113, previous high-water mark is 138 from last year).

Keller also carries along an impressive 4.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a 10.3 K’s per 9 mark.

Behind Keller, the Pirates have a solid veteran presence in 43-year-old SP Rich Hill. The 19-year career lefty is touting a 6-7 record in 15 starts with a 4.34 ERA in 83 innings. His stuff might not be as dominant as it once was, but Hill can still take the ball and be a solid starter every five days.

As a team, the Pirates are middle of the pack in both the National League (eighth) and the Majors (18th) with a 4.28 ERA as a combined unit. Opponents currently hit .254 off of the Buccos, tied for ninth-worst in the Majors.

Defense Stats

Unfortunately, defense is one of the weaknesses of the Pirates to this point. Through nearly 80 games, Pittsburgh has 46 errors, which puts them 12th in the National League. Their .983 fielding percentage also ranks toward the bottom of the Senior Circuit.

Biggest Statement Win/Worst Loss of the Season to This Point

So far, the biggest win during the season is a 16-1 thumping of the Washington Nationals back on April 29. Their statement win came on May 26 when they defeated the Seattle Mariners 11-6. The Pirates scored five runs in the fifth that day, including back-to-back home runs from Suwinski and 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes. Conversely, their worst loss came in a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of the Colorado Rockies back on May 9.

Final Thoughts on Pittsburgh Pirates Mid-Season Recap

Thinking back to the beginning of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were a sleeper pick to win a relatively weak NL Central. With the season now almost halfway done, the Central appears to be a lower-strength division in this season’s MLB. Therefore, the Pirates are still very much within range to surprise a lot of people if they can make a second-half run.

Pittsburgh may only have a 2.8% chance of making the playoffs at the moment, according to FanGraphs. But anything can change over the course of a long season. There’s still plenty of time left for the Pirates to turn things around. How they adjust without Oneil Cruz will determine their momentum the rest of the way in 2023.

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