Pirates' Powerful June Proves Pitching is Still King

Photo credit: Gregory Fisher/USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Pirates hitting the second most homeruns in a month in franchise history, they finished just 10-18 in June.  Pitching held them back.

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Chicks dig the long ball.  That's always been the reputation of homeruns, right?  They're flashy, the fans love them, and as of late players that hit homers get paid.  Homeruns are perceived as king, and that perception grows among casual baseball fans.

So the good news is that the Pirates finally found power in what feels like years.  With 44 homeruns in June, the Pirates fell just one short of tying their franchise record of homeruns in a single month, according to Stats By Stats.  

This was obviously aided by Jack Suwinski, Bryan Reynolds, and Michael Perez all having 3-homerun games in June, with Perez's coming just one game after Reynolds did it.  After Perez smacked his third over the wall last night, the crazy stats were flowing.  The Pirates are just the second team in history to have players hit 3-homerun games in back-to-back games.  Perez was also the 1st Pirates catcher to ever have a 3-homerun game.  It truly was a historic month for the Pirates in regards to homerun hitting.

However, all this just for the Pirates to finish the month with a 10-18 record.  Bummer, right?  This was all looking quite positive and happy.  I mean, the Pirates were 4th in the league in homeruns in June and are now 13th in the league overall in the stat.  But what this proves to me, is that even though chicks, and GMs with contracts to give, dig the long ball, pitching is still king. 

Unfortunately, in June, the Pirates were ranked 23rd in team ERA, and gave up the 9th most runs among all of baseball.  Their bullpen struggled the most, giving up 53 earned runs in 100 innings pitched, for a 4.77 ERA.  That was good for the 7th worst bullpen in the league in June.

Now on the surface, the starting pitching didn't do much better.  The Pirates starters had an ERA of 4.66, good for 11th worst in June.  However, the spot starts from Bryse Wilson and Jerad Eickhoff greatly contributed to these earned runs.  So if you remove their 17 earned runs in their two spot starts, the Pirates starters only had a 3.59 ERA last month which would rank 8th best in baseball.

However, this also points out that pitching depth is just as important as pitching talent.  The Pirates will never have a full season where one or more of their starting pitchers will not suffer some sort of injury, as Zach Thompson did this month.  We cannot depend on guys like Eickhoff and Wilson when the Pirates are actually competing for a spot in the postseason.  So while it's okay to take automatic losses in this developmental 2022 season, we cannot simply drop games in the future due to a lack of pitching options.  

In today's game, bullpen depth is sometimes more important than starting pitching depth.  Some teams would rather deploy an opener from the bullpen in lieu of a 5th starter.  Additionally, starters aren't going as deep into games.  Where a couple dependable arms for the 8th and 9th used to be needed, we're seeing a lot of starters pulled in the 5th nowadays.  

So just as important as five suitable starters, is three or four dominant relievers.  As far as the Pirates bullpen goes this season, they really only have two, maybe three, guys they can depend on regularly.  I would put David Bednar, Wil Crowe, and Chase De Jong in that category right now, and Crowe has struggled as of late.  Cam Vieux and Yerry De Los Santos have been productive out of the bullpen as well, but both are still very new to the league.

So ultimately, it was a fun month for the Pirates.  Homeruns are, indeed, fun, and you could see it on the faces of the fans and the players in each of the three games a Pirates player hit three homeruns last month.  However, fun isn't as important as winning.  And after this season, the Pirates need to win.  To do that, they still need to treat pitching as king.