Scott Ferrall, as devoted listeners know, is a diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fan. The Pirates were such a great story last year, making the playoffs for the first time in 20 years and coming within a game of the NLCS.
This year, however, the Pirates haven’t been quite as sharp. They’re barely above .500 (71-65 entering play Sept. 1) and trail the Cardinals and Brewers by two games in the NL Central. They’re also behind San Francisco and Atlanta in the Wild Card standings, again by two games.
When all is said and done, will Pittsburgh be back in the playoffs this year?
“I don’t think so,” FFLockerroom.com co-owner Jon Stulberg said on Ferrall on the Bench. “It’s very difficult to predict when things are so close like this, but I just feel like the Pirates – you look at that team and you look at the guys that are really driving the ship, and (it’s tough to feel confident).”
The Pirates have fared admirably at home (44-28) but have struggled mightily on the road (27-37). They also went a ho-hum 14-14 in August. That’s not terrible, but it’s also not good enough for a team needing to make up ground in the standings.
Still, there have been bright spots. Josh Harrison, for example, is hitting .329 since the All-Star break. He also hit .347 with four home runs in August, leading the Pirates with his energy and enthusiasm.
“Everybody’s just super surprised at what Josh Harrison is doing,” Stulberg said. “I like Josh Harrison. I like him as a player. I like his approach. But you just almost feel like when you watch him that they’re on borrowed time – like he’s on this magic carpet ride. He’s used up his third wish already and the genie’s about to say, ‘Okay, it’s over.’”
Harrison’s production, however, indicates otherwise. The same can be said for Edinson Volquez, who allowed one run in 7.2 innings in a 2-1 win over Cincinnati last Friday. Volquez is 8-1 with a 2.29 ERA in his last 12 starts.
“I’m not a big fan of Volquez regardless of how he pitched (last Friday),” Stulberg said. “His next start in five days, he could come out and walk five guys in 3-and-a-third. I think they’ll finish just short.”
While Harrison and Volquez are more than pulling their weight, the hefty Pedro Alvarez is not. Alvarez is hitting .232 with 18 home runs this season. He hasn’t played since Aug. 26 due to – according to the Pirates – left-foot discomfort, but Ferrall feels Alvarez’ main issue is not his foot, but rather, his declining skill.
“I 100 percent agree,” Stulberg said. “This was one of those wink-wink he’s injured let’s put him off to the side (deals). They had to make room for Harrison. They bring up (Gregory) Polanco. They have (Neil) Walker. Walker’s healthy. Harrison’s too good to be on the bench. Even if he stopped hitting, compared to Alvarez, Alvarez is a stoned wall. All you have to do is tell everybody to bunt it at third – chop the ball down to third – and you’ll be safe at first. (Alvarez) was killing them at the plate; he was killing them in the field. He’s an all-or-nothing (player). He’s a modern-day Dave Kingman – but worse.”