Let’s start by saying this. Injuries happen to all 30 teams in Major League Baseball every year, and even the best teams lose their best players – look at the Braves with Ronald Acuña Jr. Injuries aren’t the reason that the Pirates lost 101 games in 2021, but for a roster that’s thin on talent, losing three of the more important pieces for extended periods of time is a backbreaker.
With a starting rotation that was largely in flux, one could make the argument that Steven Brault was the de facto “ace” of the staff. The Bucs were counting on the left-hander to anchor their rotation and give them productive innings on the mound. Brault was coming off of a solid 2020, where he pitched to a 3.38 ERA/3.92 FIP in 42.2 innings during the abbreviated season, and it looked like he might be ready to take the next step starting in 2021.
Unfortunately for the Pirates and for Brault, an oblique injury suffered in spring training kept Brault out until August. After being activated, Brault got off to a nice start, but managed just seven starts and scuffled down the stretch before again being placed on the injured list with a lat strain in September.
Another injury to a prominent player for the Pirates was the wrist injury to Ke’Bryan Hayes that he suffered in the second game of the year. The injury kept Hayes out for two months and once he returned, it seemed that the injury might have been hampering his ability. Hayes’ power virtually disappeared, and he couldn’t get much going offensively for the majority of the season. The third baseman ended the season on the injured list with what the Pirates called “general wrist soreness.”
Like Hayes and Brault, Colin Moran missed a big chunk of the season thanks to two stints on the injured list. Moran’s bat was looked at to anchor the cleanup spot and be one of the rare sources of power in a lineup that lacked sluggers. Moran’s first stint on the injured list came in May when he suffered a groin injury diving to the first base bag – he missed a month. Less than a month later, Moran again was placed on the injured list after fracturing his wrist when he was hit by a pitch. He played just 99 games on the season.
The Pirates had even more injuries throughout the season that was part of the reason why the team used more players in 2021 than any other year throughout the franchise’s history. The Bucs currently have eight guys on the 60-day injured list and seven will need to be activated five days after the World Series ends. (Trevor Cahill will be a free agent and will not need to be activated).