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How Much Blame Should be on Pirates Hitting Coach Andy Haines?



Andy Haines, Pittsburgh Pirates, Derek Shelton

To put it bluntly, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense has been abysmal over the past couple of weeks.

Since scoring nine runs on Apr. 14 against the Philadelphia Phillies, the Pirates have scored a total of 29 runs over their last 14 games. That’s an average of 2.07 runs per game, and Pirates have scored more than four runs in a game once during their plunge.

The club’s latest fiasco came in a 5-1 loss to the Oakland A’s on Monday night. The Pirates drew five walks, but managed only two hits. Ke’Bryan Hayes singled to leadoff the game. After that, the Pirates didn’t record another hit until Oneil Cruz’s one-out single in the top of the ninth inning.

And by the way, the Bucs’ lone run of the game was on a first-inning wild pitch from Joe Boyle. It was another hitless performance with runners in scoring position.

The passive approach is what has come to be expected for the Pirates. They rank third in baseball with 122 walks drawn on the season.

That’s fine and dandy, but it doesn’t make much of a difference if the Pirates are unable to successfully put the ball in play — and that’s been the case for much of the season.

As a team, the Pirates are hitting .232 which ranks 22nd in baseball. They also rank 27th in slugging percentage (.343) and 24th with a .659 team OPS. As if those marks weren’t bad enough, only four teams have struck out more than Pirates’ players, who have gone down on strikes 283 times.

Hitting coaches are often used as scapegoats in my opinion, but it’s time to put Andy Haines under the microscope. While it’s not all on him, he certainly shares a substantial part of the blame.

The Pirates’ hitting philosophy and overall approach have both been failing. The shortcomings have been on full display in scoring opportunities, where the Pirates rank near the bottom of the league in batting average and OPS but in the middle of the pack in on-base percentage.

The Pirates seemingly refuse to break their philosophy of excessive passiveness even when a potential run is standing 90 feet away.

Most of the Pirates’ starting nine seems to be in a prolonged slump. Whether that is a matter of guys simply not performing or Haines’ tactics hindering certain batters can be open for debate, but some of the substandard numbers are eye-opening

Four regulars in the Pirates’ lineup are currently hitting under the Mendoza line: Henry Davis (.169), Jack Suwinski (.178), Andrew McCutchen (.197) and Rowdy Tellez (.198).

Davis (.497), Tellez (.542), Jared Triolo (.556), Suwinski (.561), and Michael A. Taylor (.583) all have a sub-.600 OPS.

It was telling when general manager Ben Cherington said on his weekly radio show on 93.7 The Fan that Connor Joe, Joey Bart and Alika Williams are the only players outperforming their internal projections.

To summarize, the Pirates are getting the most out of a platoon first baseman/corner outfielder, a backup catcher who is playing his way into a primary role and a backup infielder. Nobody else.

Given how good the starting rotation has been, the Pirates’ lackluster offense has been even more alarming. Even with an average offense, the Pirates would be in a much better spot than two games under .500 after a 9-2 start to the season.

It’s now year three under Haines and the offense still hasn’t performed at a respectable level. A case could be made that he deserved somewhat of a pass for the earlier stages of a drastic rebuild, but this was supposed to be the year the Pirates took a step forward.

As long as the Pirates’ troubles continue at the plate, that is not going to happen.

If Haines doesn’t have the answers, maybe it’s time to listen to a new voice.

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