Welcome to Pittsburgh Pirates Attack and Avoid. Prior to every series, I am going to give you my players that could hurt the Pirates and the team’s best course of action to avoid damage.
Hitter to Avoid
The Chicago White Sox are presently one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball with a record of 10-27. Quite simply, they are a team the Pirates should beat. However, bad record, or not, they have a few dangerous pieces, none more dangerous than Jose Abreu. Abreu is putting together another good season as currently, he is slashing .284/.350/.489/.840 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs.
Abreu has also been on fire since the last time these two teams met, as over the last seven days he is hitting .421 with three doubles and four RBIs.
If the Pirates want to contain Abreu, the key is to keep the bases empty when he is at the plate and feed him a steady diet of power pitches. Abreu has a career slugging percentage of .523 but against power pitches, he slugs a career-low .476. He also has a tOPS+ (OPS+ for split relative to a player’s total OPS+) of 85. Compare that to his career OPS+ of 141. Abreu goes from an elite, MVP-caliber hitter to well below average when he is facing power pitches.
This does not bode well for Pirates starter, Trevor Williams as he has an average fastball velocity of 92.3MPH, which puts him firmly in the non-power category. Williams throws a lot of finesse pitches, which is what Abreu feasts on. So the key is to keep the bases empty and if given the opportunity, don’t let Jose Abreu be the one to beat you. Take your chances with the other members of the White Sox lineup.
Pitcher to avoid
A baseball team doesn’t get to 10-27 by accident. The White Sox are not a strong team and one of their weakest areas is the starting rotation. The team currently has a team ERA of 5.35, which is the second worst in the American League.
The notable exception for the White Sox is tonight’s starter, Reynaldo López. López has an ERA of 2.44 and recently did a very good job against the Pirates as he went 7.1 innings, allowed two runs on three hits, and struck out six.
López has been very good for most of 2018 but has benefited from good luck as his FIP is 4.92, which screams REGRESSION.
Since López is a right-handed pitcher, he is weaker against lefty hitters as they slash .229/.333/.449/.782. Nothing overly crazy on the surface, however, the Pirates also have the added advantage of playing this game at PNC Park. On the road against left-handed hitters, López allows opposing hitters to slash .308/.379/.577/.956.
The Pirates need to stack the deck against López and fill their lineup with a lot of lefties. This gives them a huge advantage against the best White Sox pitcher.
The Chicago White Sox are not a very strong team at the moment but they are not completely void of talent. The Pirates cannot afford to overlook them because they have one of the elite hitters in baseball on their team and their best starting pitcher is making the start. The Pirates on paper look like the superior team but games are not played on paper.
The Pirates are one of the most pleasant surprises in the league right now and if they want to continue to contend, they need to beat up on the struggling teams when given the opportunity. At 10-27, it doesn’t get much worse than the White Sox. Hopefully, the Pittsburgh Pirates come away with a couple of wins and send the White Sox back to Chicago with 29 losses.