With the end of MLB's regular season coming next week, Bally Sports will review the performance of each club with an eye looking at what happened in 2021 and another at what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
What went right
• The Pirates rank 20th in defensive runs saved, which doesn't sound great but they are a plus-2 coming into action Thursday. They are particularly strong at catcher, with Jacob Stallings ranking second among players at any position with 20 runs saved. Ke'Bryan Hayes has played elite third base as well.
• They had .500 or better records against the Dodgers, Brewers and Mets, and started the season 8-8 against the Phillies.
• Adam Frazier was an All-Star having a career season, but the Pirates traded him at the peak of his value. It's a hard thing to hear when you're a losing team and the front office trades one of their better players, but if they had kept Frazier, and he hit as poorly as he has with San Diego, his value would have plummeted.
What went wrong
• Assuming they play the full 162, the Pirates need to win at least six more games to avoid losing 100 for the ninth time in franchise history and for the third time this century. This will be their 23rd last-place finish, third in a row and ninth since 2000.
• The Pirates are dead last in runs scored and in the bottom third in ERA at 4.48.
• Hayes sustained an injury to his left hand that likely dampened his offensive output in his first full season. He also blew his cool after being called out on strikes Aug. 31, smacking his right hand in anger and missing a few games as a result. He could use an offseason.
• They went 0-6 against the Cardinals, scoring six runs total in the season series.
• They made the worst collective defensive play of the season against the Cubs.
• The 2018 trade with the Rays keeps getting worse. Not only did right-hander Tyler Glasnow develop into a top-notch starter, not only did Austin Meadows blossom into a middle-of-the-order All-Star, but right-hander Shane Baz developed into a top prospect and looks to help the Rays in the postseason next month. Meanwhile, right-hander Chris Archer is back with the Rays, giving the Pirates nothing but heartache from the trade. It's not the same administration in Pittsburgh anymore, but they do have to live with the consequences.
• Gregory Polanco, a one-time top prospect who sustained many slumps and injuries — hitting .203 in 703 plate appearances since 2019 — was released before signing as a free agent with the Blue Jays on Aug. 31.
Brian Reynolds, 26, is one they haven't let get away. He's batting .295/.383/.511 with 24 homers — one of the ten best hitters in the NL.
Right-hander David Bednar has a 32.7% strikeout percentage and a 2.18 ERA in 57 ⅔ innings. He came over the Joe Musgrove deal.
Reasons for optimism
• The Pirates have a top-five farm system, recently adding catcher Henry Davis as the first overall pick in the draft. Davis is a top-25 prospect, one of five top-100 players the Bucs have in their organization. Right-hander Quinn Priester and infielder Oneil Cruz are the other big names who are close.
• General manager Ben Cherington is not the guy who made the bad trade with the Rays.
What needs work
• The Pirates averaged 93 victories and made the playoffs in three straight seasons from 2013-2015. Still, those are the only playoff seasons since 1992. There's a lot they need to get back there. At least five or six MLB quality hitters. At least three starting pitchers. At least that many relievers. They're not all going to come from the deep minor league system in 2022, or even 2023, probably. It's going to take years of work to make them competitive again.