Here we sit on July 1 and the Pirates are right in the thick of the NL Central race and are still well in line to vie for one of the two Wild Card spots in the National League. As bad as the Pirates offense was in April and May it was just as good in June, if not better. The Pirates are seven games above .500 and already have a series win against the St. Louis Cardinals as they look for the series win.
June was a good month for the most part for the Pirates. They were 17-10 in the month and while the month's of April and May were won by the pitching staff the offense busted out the lumber in June.
Going into the month there was talk that the Pirates offense could be one of the worst ever. There was talk from many people that the Pirates needed to do whatever it took to trade for a bat or two, even if that meant parting with either Garrit Cole or Jaison Taillon. There was talk about firing hitting coach Gregg Richie and there was talk about designating for assignment anyone that could be outside of Andrew McCutchen.
How bad was it? In the 50 games that the Pirates played in April and May the Bucs hit only for a .218/.272/.346 line only scoring 147 runs which was good for only 2.9 runs per game. They were striking out an absurd 8.2 times per game and only taking a little over two walks a game. It is one thing when you just can't hit, because that happens, but when you can't even get on base that is a huge problem. I have no idea how the team made it through those 50 games 25-25 but the offense didn't have much to do with it.
It was like a flip switched in June. The Pirates just went off. They hit for a .268/.329/.455 line and scored 146 runs in only 27 games. In 50 games in April and May they scored a total of 147 runs. How is that for improvement? How good was the 146 runs in the month of June? Well, it led the entire league and they were three runs better than the New York Mets. They drew nearly a walk more per game and still struck out over eight times per game. While the strikeouts were the same you can tolerate that a little more when you are putting the ball in play and smashing the baseball.
The Pirates also busted out the long ball in June. Among all Major League teams they were third with 39 home runs after hitting only 38 in the first two months of the season and the team's .187 ISO was only behind four other teams. The Pirates have never been known as a home run hitting team but in June they were. 11 different players hit the long ball and four players had five or more home runs. In the first two months of the season the Pirates compiled a COMBINED 1.3 offensive WAR but in the month of June they were fourth in the league with a 6.6 offensive WAR. The offensive had a wOBA of .336 and a wRC+ of 112 which were both in the top-7 of baseball during the month of June. THis wasn't just the Pirates hitting a lot of home runs or just scoring more runs, it was the Piates being better on the offensive side across the board. You can't JUST say that they were better than the first two months you can say that the Pirates had one of the best offensive month's in all of baseball. Let that sink in.
It is all good to look at the team as a whole in June but looking at what some of the underperforming players have done really shows you why the Pirates were so good in the month of June. Here are just a handful of players and how they performed in June:
That is pretty solid if you ask me. It is one thing to have a hot streak for a couple of weeks, but this is a full month for the Pirates offense.
Now, overall I do not think that the Pirates can keep up this offense for the rest of the year. They are on fire and while the triple slash line doesn't necessarily jump out at you I am not sure this team is that talented offensively to keep hitting balls out of the park at this rate. That being said they are nowhere near as bad as they were the first 50 games of the season. I think the Pirates are somewhere in the middle of that and if they can find that middle ground and mix in a few weeks here and there of hot baseball like they did in June then this team is going to be able to hang around longer than last season.
Do I have any idea why the Pirates just flipped the switch and played great baseball all of a sudden? No, I have no idea. I did expect that the Pirates would play to the mean offensively but in no way did I see them hitting the most home runs in the National League for an entire month. After the monster June month the Pirates are now hitting for a .236/.293/.386 line after going .218/.272/.346 in the first two months. That is a significant improvement. The Pirates don't have to perform like they have in June the rest of the season, they just need to be league average. The Pirates aren't going to be a league average offense by the numbers but they survived that horrible 50 game dry spell and are right in the thick of things.