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.
The Pittsburgh Pirates took care of business against the Chicago White Sox. The Pirates are rolling right now, having won eight of their last 10 games. Sandwiched between two separate two-game series with the White Sox, they won series against the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants. The Pirates aren’t just beating up on the bad teams. However, when the bad teams show up on the schedule, the Pirates are taking advantage.
The San Diego Padres are currently one of those bad teams. They are in fourth place in the NL West with a record of 17-27. The Pirates have a great opportunity to stack some wins against a fairly mediocre opponent. The Padres enter the series with a bit of momentum as they have won three of their last four games, including a solid series split with the St. Lous Cardinals. Despite their record, the Padres are not pushovers. Make no mistake, this is a series the Pirate have an advantage but they play the games for a reason.
The Padres certainly have some weapons that can hurt the Pirates. Here are my picks for the players that can hurt the Pirates and the best way to attack them.
Hitter to Avoid
This past offseason was one of the weirdest in recent years. A lot of good players went unsigned for far too long. One of the biggest surprise moves was when Eric Hosmer signed an eight-year, $144 million contract with the Padres. That is quite a lot of money to throw at any player, much less one in his late 20s. So far, however, the Padres have to be happy with the investment. Hosmer is currently hitting .270/.369/.487/.856 with six home runs and an OPS+ of 139.
Hosmer has been everything the Padres were hoping he would be. In addition to his overall solid work, Hosmer has been on fire over the last week. He is slugging .579 over his last five games and is feasting on fastballs.
Currently, Hosmer is hitting four-seam fastballs 10.4 percent better than his overall average. The Pirates are obviously a fastball-centric pitching staff so this could present them with trouble. The Pirates cannot afford to simply feed Hosmer fastballs because he will do damage against them.
The Pirates best course of action is to use a variety of off-speed pitches, especially the slider and changeup. Hosmer is really struggling against change-ups so far in 2018. Entering this series, he his hitting the change-up nearly four percent lower than his overall average. Couple that with sliders (nearly three percent less than his average) and curveballs (one percent below average) the Pirates need to stay away from the heat and go soft.
If the Pirates attack Hosmer with a combo of a slider, change-up, and curveballs, they effectively make Hosmer a nearly eight percent less effective hitter. That may not seem like much, but it can mean the difference between an out and a bases-clearing double. Stick to this plan, and you can best negate Hosmer’s impact on the series.
Pitcher to avoid
The San Diego Padres do not have a particularly strong pitching staff as they have a team ERA of 4.17, which is 10th in the National League. You can certainly see why the Padres are presently 10 games under .500. However, the one exception has been Tyson Ross. Ross currently has a 3.40 ERA with a FIP of 3.27. Ross has always had solid stuff but seems to be using it well so far in 2018.
Ross uses a standard array of pitches, as he sticks with a fastball, change-up, cutter, and slider. For the most part, Ross has done a very good job at getting batters out this season. One exception is the number two hitter in the lineup. Ross holds opposing hitters to a .207/.247/.294/.541 slash line. However, against the number-two hitter in the lineup, he is allowing hitters a combined slash line of .353/.542/.529/1.071.
Because he has done such a good job against the rest of the lineup, he hasn’t allowed a ton of damage. So the Pirates need the rest of their lineup to get on base and hopefully, in a big spot, the two-hitter is up to the plate because that could help the team put a crooked number up on the board.
Tyson Ross is definitely an effective starting pitcher but he is far from unbeatable. The Pirates need to take advantage of an opposing pitcher’s weak spots, much like they did against the White Sox. This series should be winnable for the Pirates as the Padres are playing like a team in transition. The Padres are a step above the White Sox but they are beatable and hopefully, the Pirates can continue to stack wins against mediocre opponents.