The performance of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff has been a big story throughout the first 57 games of the 2012 season, and why not?
All these guys have done is post the third best ERA in baseball (3.28), along with the third best bullpen ERA in the majors (2.53).
Yet as good as a story as the Pirates pitching staff has been, it’s been just the opposite for the Pirates offense. They currently rank last in the majors in runs scored (183) and on-base percentage (.277); 29th in the majors in batting average (.226) and 28th in the majors in slugging percentage (.361).
However, while the 2012 Pirates offense won’t be confused with Murders’ Row anytime soon, it’s hard not to notice the improvement as of late.
During the first 44 games of the season, the Bucs scored an average of 2.86 runs per game, but in the last 13 games, in which the Bucs have gone 10-3, that number has jumped up to 4.43 runs per game.
Looking even more closely at how things could be turning around, during the month of June so far, the Bucs are sixth in the majors in that span in both batting average (.275) and runs scored (5.1) and fifth in slugging percentage (.463).
Seven games may be a smaller sample size, but it is a positive considering how brutal the bats have been for the first two months.
If the pitching keeps up, and right now there’s no reason to think it won’t, four runs per game could be the magic number for this Pirates team.
In games this season in which the Bucs have scored four runs or more, the Pirates have posted a remarkable 21-3 record.
Of course other than Andrew McCutchen (.325) and Neil Walker (.279) the Pirates don’t have another player hitting over .250. Only McCutchen (10) and Pedro Alvarez have more than eight home runs and they have only one player (McCutchen, 33) who’s driven in more than 30 runs on the season.
Yet slowly they are starting to get a little bit of production up and down the roster when they need it.
They are a team that is going to win with pitching and just enough timely hitting, but the signs as of late point to the fact that they are starting to get that hitting more frequently. The results of that have the Bucs three-games over .500 and only two games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central.
It will be interesting to see if the offense can keep things going and give this team enough to continue to win.
If the first 57 games are any indication, the Pirates bats don’t need a lot, all they need is four per night.