Who’s to blame for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching woes?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 03: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on July 3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 03: Chris Archer #24 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the third inning against the Chicago Cubs at PNC Park on July 3, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates have seen their season flash before their eyes as horrific pitching leads them further away from the playoffs.

Good ‘ole Uncle Ray. The infectious smile, the happy demeanor, the thin white stache. Everybody loves him. Certainly seems like a good guy. Yet, with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ horrid pitching, he needs to be held liable.

I want to first say, blaming this on Searage could be falsely placed. The whole pitching-to-contact thing — I really do not get it. If the Pirates brass really demands that pitchers try to pitch-to-contact and get weak outs, while major league hitters are striking out more than ever, I don’t know that I can blame Searage.

If the people upstairs are saying this is the philosophy we are going to instill, take it or leave it, then what is Searage supposed to do. In that case, I wouldn’t really blame Searage.

Yet I do not know that is indeed the case. This could be Searage’s — and the plethora of pitching coaches in the system — mantra, that has wasted years of good Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitchers.

Regardless, the mindset is stupid and needs to be accounted for. As a coach, especially an assistant coach, getting canned for player’s poor performance is not nearly as uncommon as other aspects of Major League Baseball.

Somebody needs to be held accountable for this staff failing.

Look at Chris Archer for example. Strikeout artist for the entirety of his career. Gets to Pittsburgh. Try to turn him into a contact pitcher with a two-seam fastball. What?

Is there no way for us to try different philosophies for different pitchers? Francisco Liriano, when he was a starter, was never asked to be a contact pitcher. But with Chris Archer, the most prized trade acquisition we’ve had in decades, we try this?

How is there this much of a disconnect? In an almost billion-dollar organization? Why are you trying to get pitchers who could average double-digit strikeouts to morph into something they are not?

It’s easy to look at pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton and say look at how good they’ve been doing since leaving Pittsburgh. So that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I remember watching Charlie Morton’s first start as a Bucco in Arizona. He had given up a few home-runs, but had struck out the first six or seven batters he faced. Granted, his first few years were pretty bad. But immediately, we converted him to contact pitcher and a ground ball specialist. Why? His stuff was as electric as anybody’s, and could easily miss bats. Just needed some experience and fine-tuning.

Now looking at Gerrit. I get he had a bad attitude, and probably never wanted to play in Pittsburgh, but the number one overall draft pick deserved better tutelage in the ‘Burgh then what he got.

Gerrit was not a strikeout pitcher when he was here. He struggled to miss bats. That was a growing concern. But as soon as he leaves, of course, he becomes the best strikeout pitcher in the AL. Could you not see that potential? He regularly threw 100MPH, had two nasty breaking pitches, and could spin a change-up.

Nah, let’s have him throw a two-seamer.

Searage has always gotten credit for being a “pitcher whisperer,” where he takes bad pitchers and makes them good, but even that comes with some asterisks.

Liriano never had any success before Uncle Ray!

AJ Burnett was a total scrub his entire career before he got to Pittsburgh!

Edinson Volquez couldn’t get high schoolers out before he met the magic hands of Ray!

Oh. They were all all-stars before they came to Pittsburgh? Huh, strange.

Searage, however, does deserve credit for tweaking something within these guys and rejuvenating their careers. It’s not lost on me that they were horrid directly before coming to Pittsburgh.

The point I’m trying to make is that Searage got players that already had immense talent and had already pitched in the big leagues for years. These were not young pitchers who needed to be molded.

Gerrit Cole, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Kingham, maybe Mitch Keller. Their immense talent was wasted in Pittsburgh. Believe it or not, Kingham was once a top prospect. Scouts are often wrong on these, but that at least meant that many smart baseball minds saw real potential in Kingham.

I’m not including Taillon because of the myriad of health issues, you just can’t blame Searage for this.

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The Pirates need to build through the draft, so when you find diamonds in the rough like Glasnow and Kingham in later rounds, you cannot waste their potential.

Why turn pitchers into what they aren’t? Whose fault is this philosophy, upper management or Searage?

Ray does deserve credit for the bullpen, however. The number of good relievers the Pirates have had over the years really is staggering. Jared Hughes, Bryan Morris, Justin Wilson, Melancon, Grilli, Kela, Tony Watson, Rich-Rod, Edgar Santana, Crick, and of course Felipe.

Besides Kela, none of these pitchers came to the Pirates with heavy expectations. Felipe maybe, but pundits were not crazy about his old command issue.

So while Ray deserves credit for the relievers, the starting pitching debacle is one that cannot go unchecked. Having good relievers does not matter if your starting rotation cannot do their job.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have one of the worst ERA’s in the league and have bungled the careers of many promising pitchers. For many teams, this would be more than enough to can the pitching coach.

I just hope Keller’s career can be saved, and this putrid strategy is gone by the time Quinn Priester is ready.

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Who do you think should be held accountable for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching woes — Ray Searage or upper management? Feel free to leave your comments below!