The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the early darlings of MLB in the 2023 season. They started the season off red hot, going 20-9, making even the greatest of Pirates' skeptics believe this year could be a turnaround year for them. But since that time, the Pirates have gone a dismal 6-18 in the month of May. Was this team fool's gold? For a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2015, there's bound to be a plethora of frustrated fans in “The City of Champions.” As always, there's likely to be a finger pointed at a certain few on the roster by the Pirates faithful.
Here's two players that Pirates fans may already be fed up with in the 2023 season:
The Pirates find themselves in a precarious situation. After a promising start to the season, they have stumbled and struggled to find consistency. One of the players who has seen his performance decline significantly is Ke'Bryan Hayes, and it's understandable why Pirates fans could be growing frustrated with him.
When the Pirates signed Hayes to a contract extension, there was genuine excitement among the fanbase. Finally, it seemed like ownership was committing to a player long-term. Hayes' defensive skills were already well-known, and having him at third base for years to come was a significant positive. However, there were question marks about his offensive abilities.
Unfortunately, Hayes' offensive struggles have become apparent this season. His career slash line of .221/.275/.344 and only two home runs this season thus far show a lack of power and on-base production. Third base is a position where power hitting is often expected, especially for a player considered to be a franchise cornerstone. The Pirates need run production, particularly in crucial moments, and Hayes has not delivered consistently.
In a recent game against the Seattle Mariners, Hayes struck out four times, including in the tenth inning with the bases loaded. These are the situations where the Pirates need him to step up and produce runs. The Pirates cannot solely rely on Hayes' defensive skills to carry the team.
The Pirates need the Ke'Bryan Hayes they signed to step up and, in a hurry, to hopefully recover the flailing Pirates team. Otherwise, the team's struggles may continue, leaving fans disillusioned and the season in jeopardy.
Johan Oviedo's first full MLB season has been a bit of a bumpy ride, and I'm sure that's not going unnoticed by an impatient Pirates fanbase. While he has shown flashes of great stuff and worked on improving his repertoire, there is one major issue that has plagued him: the 1st inning, per MLB.com.
In Oviedo's starts, the majority of the damage inflicted by opposing batters has come in the 1st inning. This recurring problem raises serious questions on how to fix this glaring issue that has put the Pirates in a hole early in games.
Looking at Oviedo's overall numbers this season, he has posted a 4.70 ERA and a 4.11 FIP in 53.2 innings pitched across 10 starts. Apart from a couple of poor outings against the Washington Nationals and the Toronto Blue Jays, where he allowed a combined 13 earned runs, Oviedo has consistently delivered strong performances. He has showcased a decent walk rate, a moderate strikeout rate, and has kept home runs to a manageable rate.
However, Oviedo's 1st inning blunders have been such a recurring issue throughout his starts that it might be time for the Pirates to reconsider things. Even in his eight strong outings, he has encountered some form of trouble in the opening frame. In the 1st inning alone, Oviedo has allowed 16 runs on 16 hits, including 5 doubles and 4 home runs. Additionally, he has issued 6 walks in the 1st inning. Outside of the 1st inning, he has allowed just 5 doubles, a single home run, and walked 19 batters.
The reasons behind Oviedo's 1st inning struggles are difficult to pinpoint. It is something that Oviedo, along with pitching coach Oscar Marin and the Pirates coaching staff, will have to address and work on. However, in the meantime, the implementation of an opener strategy could benefit both Oviedo and the Pirates.
While it's important to give Johan Oviedo time to figure out and overcome his 1st inning issues, the Pirates cannot afford to consistently fall behind early in games. The frustration among fans is understandable, as they want to see their team compete and win — which is something they haven't seen in a long time.