By Mike Wysocki
Pittsburgh Current Baseball Writer
We’re halfway home on this journey that we call the Major League Baseball Season and your Pittsburgh Pirates are still contenders in the National League Central.
A recent 7-3 run that included a two touchdown score over Houston and a series sweep of San Diego that included one of the Pirates greatest regular season wins. The rest of the division has stagnated around them. Like the first round of the Democratic Presidential debates, nobody seems to be taking charge just yet. So there’s still hope for the underdogs. However, Gregory Polanco joined the overcrowded injured list so the Bucs will be without their best outfielder for awhile.
Actually Bryan Reynolds is their best outfielder this year. Don’t imagine Austin Meadows playing beside him every day in the outfield, because you’ll only make yourself sick. But the guy they got for Cutch is raking a Ty Cobb-like batting average and an OPS of .982. This injury will give Reynolds some more playing time. He’s still hasn’t played a full season, but Polanco never had a half season this good.
Compare Polanco to his teammate Starling Marte. Marte has a career WAR (wins above replacement) of 27.4 which places him alongside names like Justin Morneau and Mo Vaughn. Polanco’s is 5.8, not even in the top 1,300 of all time. For perspective, Marte is 612th in MLB history. Marte has won two Gold Gloves and has hit .285 for his career. El Coffee has hit .252 with an empty trophy shelf.. He once had speed when he swiped 27 bases in 2015. Since then nothing higher than 12. His career high in home runs is 23, or about what Josh Bell will have at the All Star break.
So the Pirates will be without their third best outfielder for awhile. Though you could make a strong argument that Corey Dickerson is also a better outfielder. Dickerson hasn’t played much this season, but in his career Dickerson has a Gold Glove, a higher batting average (.284) and a higher OPS (.823 to Polanco’s .741) The left fielder has a WAR of 12.5 which puts him in the top 850 of all time. What about Melky Cabrera? He’s hitting .312 this season with many clutch hits. Cabrera is a lifetime .286 hitter. He’s seven years older than Polanco, so the upside is definitely in Gregory’s favor. But who would you rather have at the plate is a close game against those Evil Cubs or Putrid Reds? Not to bury the guy, but Lonnie Chisenhall also has a higher lifetime batting average and OPS and a higher WAR than Polanco. So as I was saying, the Pirates will be without one of their outfielders for a couple of weeks.
The positive side of all of this is that the Pirates have some depth. They can deal for pitching with their almost ‘Embarrassment of Riches” in the outfield. That’s a strong term to use and to do so with the Pirates might seem a little jarring. But there hasn’t been a chance to use that term, at least in the 21st Century, so I’m leaving it in there. El Coffee is still the youngest in this group, besides Reynolds, so we can’t give up on him yet. But he’s been more of a Nescafe or instant coffee so far, instead of the good kind you get in the Strip District.