Just How Bad is the Pittsburgh Pirates' Offense?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | A previous article on this website bemoaned the lack of offensive production by the Pittsburgh Pirates during an opening series loss against the Chicago Cubs.

Six runs scored over a span of three games along with a team batting average below the Mendoza line was cause for concern despite solid starting pitching. But some fans weren't concerned. Each game was played in winter-like conditions with frigid temperatures not conducive to hitting. Better weather awaited in Los Angeles.

The team's offense somehow found a way to get worse on the West Coast, however. Six games into the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates have scored only eight runs are sporting a team batting average of .119, an abysmal rate good for last in the majors. There are only two other teams in the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros that are batting below .200 for the season, and both teams are hitting about 60 points higher than the Pirates.

There are three individual players in the majors with more RBI than the entire Pirates team. Chris Davis, the first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, has more than twice the amount of runs batted in (17) than the entire Pirates roster. The Pirates have only 21 hits in 176 at-bats this year, well behind the league-leading 71 hits compiled by the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.

The individual statistics recorded by some Pirates tell an even sadder story. Only two players in Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen are hitting above .200. Only two others in Clint Barmes and Garrett Jones are hitting above .100. Catcher Russell Martin doesn't even have a hit yet in 14 at-bats. Pedro Alvarez has 10 strikeouts and no walks in 22 at-bats. The team overall has 54 strikeouts to only 14 walks.

But some fans still aren't worried about the team's 1-5 record. The cold weather hampered the hitting against the Cubs. The Pirates never play well against the Dodgers, having lost nine games in a row and 17 of the last 19 against the team. Not to mention the fact that the team is only six games into a 162-game season. There's no reason to panic, some say.

There is every reason to panic. The Pirates got five quality starting pitching performances out of six games this season, and the team has been virtually in every game it's played. But that pitching can't and won't continue on the same path. The team's 2.82 staff earned run average is good for fifth in the majors. It won't stay that high. And what will happen when the arms start to falter if the offense continues at its historically awful pace?

The team now faces a series against the Diamondbacks, a team tied with the most hits in baseball. After that it's series against the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. It's hard to imagine the Pittsburgh Pirates getting out of April with anything resembling a winning record, considering the current state of the team and upcoming opponents.

It's indeed a long season, one in which team owner Bob Nutting is already trying to put a positive spin on his team's performance. Nutting recently took to the local media here and proclaimed that his hitters are seeing a high amount of three-ball counts. Naturally, he said, those hitters' counts will start to pay off in increased hits or walks. Be patient, he said.

Six games in to the 2013, and patience among many fans is already wearing incredibly thin.

Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for MLB.com on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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