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.
I have good news and bad news. The good news is the Pittsburgh Pirates are about to take on a 16-32 baseball club. The bad news is that club is the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds traditionally have given the Pirates fits, no matter how good or bad the team is doing in the standings.
The Reds enter this series as one of the worst teams in the league. They really struggle on the pitching side as they have a 4.92ERA, which is the second worst in the National League. The Reds have put together one of the worst pitching staffs in baseball and the sad thing is, it is mostly homegrown. Their drafting and developing has really let them down. It seems no matter who they throw out on the mound, they struggle to consistently get outs at the Big League Level.
However, you don’t end up 16-32 because of just a mediocre pitching staff. The Reds also enter the series with one of the worst offenses in the National League. They currently rank near the bottom in OPS and Slugging Percentage. They are not a huge threat to hit for power and given their home ballpark, that really isn’t good.
The Reds, however, do have some familiar weapons. The biggest name is, of course, Joey Votto. He is one of the elite players in all of baseball. Despite his greatness, he is not the player Pirates fans are must afraid of…
Hitter to avoid
Joey Votto is the Cincinnati Reds best player and it isn’t even close. No first baseman in baseball is better than Joey Votto. Though let’s be honest, despite his greatness, Votto isn’t the player that strikes fear into the hearts of Pirates fans everywhere. That player is, of course, Billy Hamilton.
Billy Hamilton is a below average offensive player against basically 28 Major League teams. He has a career slash line of .245/.298/.332/.630 and an OPS+ of 71. He is quite simply, a one-tool player. However, when Hamilton sees Pirates pitching, he turns into an All-Star. Against the Pirates in his career, Hamilton has an OPS+ of 131 and hits .298/.348/.380/.728. Because of this, Hamilton has a career-best 51 stolen bases against the Pirates.
If Joey Votto beats you, you shrug your shoulders and accept it because he is a superstar. When Billy Hamilton consistently beats you, you question why an all-loving God would allow such a terrible thing to happen.
Billy Hamilton is such a below-average Major League hitter, that I would say just copy what every other team does against him. However, it really seems to not matter what the Pirates do as Hamilton always does damage. The best course of action is to force Hamilton to hit the ball into the air. On fly balls, Hamilton hits .200/.255/.281/.536. You can’t beat out in-field singles if the ball isn’t on the ground.
The Pirates need to find a way to contain Billy Hamilton because it’s truly absurd how such a mediocre player always seems to haunt their dreams. Billy Hamilton will likely never be an All-Star unless MLB makes it so he only plays against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pitcher to avoid
The Cincinnati Reds have one of the worst starting rotations in all of baseball and their bullpen isn’t much better for the most part. Their bullpen ERA is 10th in the NL at 4.06 and they allow opponents to hit nearly .250. The Reds really don’t excel in most pitching areas, however, they do have a dynamic closer.
Raisel Iglesias has saved half of the Reds victories and in doing so has a 2.08ERA in 21.2 innings of work. He also has 27 strikeouts in those 21.2 innings, so his stuff is definitely missing bats.
Iglesias doesn’t do anything too fancy as he generally throws a 95+MPH fastball, a change-up, and a slider. All three of those pitches have been effective and he does an excellent job against hitters, holding them to a .162 batting average against.
Iglesias does have a weakness against lefties, which could bode well for the Pirates. The best strategy for the Pirates would be to have a lead against the Reds late to completely avoid Iglesias. However, when facing Iglesias, the best way to attack him is to be aggressive.
When swinging at the first pitch, batters hit nearly seven percent better, slug nearly 21 percent better, and have an OPS nearly 20 percent better than if they took it. If the Pirates are forced to face Iglesias, their best plan is to have a lefty up at the plate and have them swing away early.
Iglesias is a closer on a bad team, which means he is avoidable if the Pirates simply do their jobs for the first eight innings of the baseball game. Have a lead and you are basically guaranteed to avoid the Reds best pitching weapon. Baseball can be a complicated game but this is about as simple as it gets.