The last time the Pirates started a season 4-0 was 2003 when they swept the Reds on the road and then drilled the Phillies 9-1. I remember watching that game when Reggie Sanders belted a grand slam for his fourth home run in four games and proudly declared from my dorm room at IUP that “this was the year that the losing ended!” It wasn’t. Hell, they were back under .500 by the end of April. The Pirates finished 75-87 that season. Sanders ended up with 31 home runs in his lone season with the Bucs in what possibly could have been the most forgotten 31 dingers by a player of all-time.
Hopefully, this year continues on a better path than that 2003 season. The Pirates and Reds will battle for first place this weekend in a matchup of 3-0 teams. Despite the undefeated record so far and the impressive sweep of the Cardinals, there were actually grumblings from the yinzers on Twitter today concerning the lack of power with this team and that the team has yet to hit its first home run of 2016. Seriously. Leave it to the yinzers to find something to complain about with a 3-0 team.
First, the lack of power should not be surprising. One of this team’s weaknesses heading into the season was the long ball. They just don’t have the big power guy that blasts home runs all day. Pedro Alvarez led the team with 27 bombs last year and he’s in Baltimore now. After Pedro, McCutchen was your top HR guy with 23 and then Marte with 19. McCutchen may flirt with 30 this season, but that’s your top power guy and you shouldn’t expect anything more than that. The rest of the lineup is a collection of guys that will hit around 10-15 home runs. If he takes a step forward again this season, Marte could hit 20-25 homers and maybe Polanco with the way he’s started this season, gets in the 15-20 range. The rest? Cervelli: 7-10, Jaso: 8-12, Freese if he plays everyday: 10-15, JHay: 5-10, Mercer: not many, Kang depending on how much time he misses: 10-15.
It’s just not a power lineup. And that’s okay, this lineup does other things well…gets on base and rips doubles/triples. I’ve always felt this way about having power—power is certainly nice to have, but it’s overrated at the same time. Look no further than the Royals last year. The Royals hit 139 home runs in 2015, one below the Pirates actually and ranked 24th in the Majors. Pirates were 23rd and the Cardinals were 25th. Those three teams won 95, 98 and 100 games with those poor power numbers with the Royals winning the whole thing. So power is not a must have by any means.
Second, if you actually watched the Pirates-Cardinals series, they were teeing off on Cards pitching all three games and hit THREE triples. Two of the balls hit on the top of the wall inches away from a home run and a couple other balls would have been home runs in basically any other park but PNC. Cervelli’s triple on Opening Day in the North Shore Notch would have been a home run anywhere else.
The point is, RELAX. This team could easily have three or four home runs already. But who in the hell wouldn’t take triples and lasers hitting off the Clemente Wall? I have a feeling we’ll be seeing some home runs in the launching pad of Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati this weekend.