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.
It’s never a good thing when a team loses a series but in their loss to the Chicago Cubs, the Pirates finally showed a little bit of a backbone. Winning is obviously better than standing up to an opponent but at least in game three of their series with the Cubs, the Pirates finally showed some moxie.
Hopefully, the game three win against the Cubs helps change the fortune of the Buccos as they have not played particularly well during this key stretch of play against NL Central competition. The Pirates will look to respond as they begin a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium.
The Pirates have definitely been in a massive funk recently and a trip to St. Louis isn’t exactly the best recipe to fix that but you have to play the schedule that’s in front of you. The Cardinals have been fairly solid for most of the season as they currently sit at 29-24. They aren’t the world-beating Cardinals of 2010-2015 but they are still a solid and capable ball club.
Hitter to avoid
The St. Louis Cardinals always seem to have at least one hitter that murders Pirates’ pitching and this year is no different. My pick for the hitter to avoid shouldn’t come as any surprise because it’s Matt Carpenter. Carpenter has always been a thorn in the Pirates’ side as he owns a career slash line of .270/.376/.471/.847 against Pittsburgh.
In addition to seemingly always getting a bit hit against the Bucs, Carpenter seems to never have a poor at-bat. Even when the Pirates get him out, it is always a battle. Carpenter is a good Big League player, so it’s a bit forgiving that he does well against the Pirates, however, that doesn’t make it less frustrating.
Carpenter is always a good hitter but manages to become even better when in a high leverage situation. In his career in high leverage situations, he slugs .488 with nearly 60 extra base hits. The guy turns into a different player in big spots. The Pirates should definitely look to avoid Matt Carpenter if the game is on the line. However, Carpenter does have one very legitimate weakness and that is the opposite field.
When Carpenter is pulling the ball or going up the middle, he hits a combined .379/.374/.657/1.031 with 101 home runs. That is elite-level production for an already above-average MLB-player. However, if you are able to force Carpenter to the opposite field, he turns into a barely passable number-eight hitter. When going to the opposite field, Carpenter hits a pedestrian .233/.226/.320/.546 with only three home runs.
The Pirates need to pitch Carpenter away and hope he tries to use the opposite field because that turns a great hitter into a mediocre one. Ideally, the Pirates can avoid Carpenter with the game on the line but if they cannot, there is a fairly simple plan of attack. Force the elite hitter to push the ball into the opposite field. Otherwise, you’re playing with a very dangerous fire.
Pitcher to Avoid
The St. Louis Cardinals always seem to have above-average pitching. It’s one of the laws of nature, apparently. This season seems no different, however, it isn’t the usual suspects doing the damage.
Miles Mikolas has been a very pleasant surprise for the Cardinals as he has a 2.58ERA and has accumulated 1.6WAR so far in 2018. Mikolas has been one of the elite pitchers in the game so far and it doesn’t appear to be smoke and mirrors either. He has a 3.16FIP and a WHIP of 0.980, so he has absolutely earned his success.
Mikolas has had success against right and left-handed hitters in 2018, however, lefties have one distinct advantage. If you are a left-handed hitter, your best approach is to get pull-happy. When left-handed hitters pull the ball, they are slashing .438/.438/.719/1.156 with five extra-base hits. Compare that to his overall opponent slash line of .227/.253/.332/.585, you can definitely see a huge jump when lefties are pulling the ball.
The Pirates have some talented left-handed hitters, however, at times they seem to like the patient, opposite field approach. They need to forget that when Mikolas is on the mound. You obviously can’t avoid a starting pitcher but you can negate their success with the right plan of attack. The Pirates left-handed hitters need to pull the ball early and often against Mikolas, otherwise, he will have success against their lineup.