2018 Pittsburgh Pirates
2018 Pittsburgh Pirates / Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates / BR Team Page
Managed by Clint Hurdle
History, Comments, Contributions
The hopes for the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates season were low as spring training opened. Following two straight sub-.500 finishes, they had traded former MVP Andrew McCutchen (their top star of the decade) and former #1 overall pick Gerrit Cole (who had been up and down over the past few years) for a slew of mid-level prospects, most notably 3B Colin Moran. That led to numerous complaints from the fan base, with letters to the editor and many saying they would be attending fewer games. Several Pirates players complained as well, with Josh Harrison requesting a trade and Sean Rodriguez and David Freese also speaking up. That said, Pittsburgh was returning almost all of its starters from 2017 and had not undergone a Fire Sale like the Miami Marlins: C Francisco Cervelli, 1B Josh Bell, 2B Harrison, SS Jordy Mercer, 3B Freese (with Moran expected to platoon with him) and OFs Starling Marte (moving to CF) and Gregory Polanco all were due back, with an expected battle for LF between Adam Frazier, Jose Osuna and possibly free agent Daniel Nava. The rotation returned starters Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams with Steven Brault, Tyler Glasnow and off-season acquisition Joe Musgrove expected to compete for the 5th spot. The bullpen changed over a little more - closer Felipe Rivero was back along with George Kontos and Daniel Hudson. Musgrove, two other acquisitions in Kyle Crick and Michael Feliz, and 2017 rookie Dovydas Neverauskas were among those counted on to round out the bullpen.
Early in spring training, the team shuffled things up by trading Hudson and minor leaguer Tristan Gray to Tampa Bay for 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson, who would then fill the spot in left field. A few days later, Nava was lost for approximately three months when he had to undergo surgery to alleviate pain in his lower back. The team struggled in Grapefruit League play despite impressive power numbers, not something that was expected to be a strong point. Many of the pitchers did poorly. The team opted to start the year with 13 pitchers and only 12 position players, sending Osuna down despite an excellent spring training. The season got off to a delayed start when the opener was rained out. When the first game was played on March 30th, the Pirates defeated the Detroit Tigers, 13-10, in a wild 13-inning game. They trailed 6-4 in the top of the 8th but tied it with 2 runs, then scored 4 more in the top of the 9th only to see closer Rivero, who would announce a few days later that he had changed his name to "Felipe Vazquez", fall apart in the bottom of the inning, issuing four runs on three walks and a double while recording just two outs. The Tigers' Nicholas Castellanos apparently scored the winner in the 10th but the ruling was overturned on video replay, as Castellanos had not touched home. Polanco hit a three-run homer off Alex Wilson in the top of the 13th and Brault was the winner with three innings of scoreless relief. After another rainout the next day, the Pirates swept a doubleheader on April 1st, 1-0 and 8-6 behind a strong start by Williams in the opener and a win by Kuhl in the nitecap. Rivero redeemed his opening day cough-up by saving both wins to get the Bucs off to a 3-0 start before moving to Pittsburgh for their home opener on April 2nd. The Pirates continued to be one of the surprise team in the majors over the next week. On April 6th, a four-hit night by Moran was key to a 14-3 beatdown of the Cincinnati Reds that improved the Bucs's record to 6-1. It was the team's best start since 1976, when they had also started 6-1.
The team finished April a solid 17-12, right in the mix for the race with St. Louis, Milwaukee and Chicago in a strong division to that point. The offense had been the strong point, like in the preseason, ranking second in the NL with 142 runs, almost 5 per game. Newcomers Dickerson (.313/.358/.515, 139 OPS+) and Moran (.280/.362/.415, 115 OPS+) had helped out returning players Marte (.286/.365/.446, 124 OPS+, 21 R, 8-10 SB) and especially catchers Cervelli (.308/.391/.564, 162 OPS+, 20 RBI in 78 AB) and Elías Díaz (.484/.529/.677, 232 OPS+ in 34 PA). Interestingly, Jung-ho Kang had gotten an unexpected visa, though whether he would return to the majors to contribute, with Moran ensconced at third and backup Freese playing well, was less clear. The pitching had not been as sharp, with a 3.98 ERA ranking 10th in the NL. The bullpen seemed to be recovering after a terrible start while Williams (4-1, 2.29) and Nova (2-1, 3.32, 4 BB in 38 IP) were pacing the starters; Taillon had been inconsistent and Brault and Kuhl okay but unspectacular. Nick Kingham had come up originally for a one-game stint but retired his first 20 batters to earn a second game in May.
Pittsburgh started May well and reached first place by mid-month but then went into a tailspin, in large part due to failures by the bullpen. They finished the month 12-15 to fall to 4th, 6 1/2 games back. Cervelli, Dickerson and Marte were all still hitting very well as was Rookie of the Month Austin Meadows, who came up when Marte got hurt and played so well he hung around. The offense was still one of the best in the NL but the relief corps was definitely bringing the team down. June was all bad as the team was 10-16 and the offense, which had been doing well, went cold, including leaders Marte, Dickerson and Cervelli (who got injured).
Awards and Honors
- All-Star: Felipe Vazquez
- Associated Press: "Pirates enter 2018 with retooled roster, modest expectations", USA Today Sports, March 22, 2018.