The struggles of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and 2012 were well documented, as both years the team got off to a good start but faded down the stretch.
On the heels of a solid 2013 that included the team’s first playoff appearance since 1992, the Pirates stood pat in the free-agent market with the exception of a few minor moves.
One of these moves paid off Sunday as Edinson Volquez helped the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in a nationally-televised contest. The win elevated Volquez’s record to 3-4 overall and moved Volquez closer to the .500 mark.
It’s no secret the Pirates have had a disappointing season. Much of the promise that 2013 brought seems to have evaporated for now, as the Pirates are back to their losing ways. Granted, the Pirates aren’t as awful as other teams in baseball like the Chicago Cubs, but after last season the hope was the Pirates could compete for a prolonged period of time.
Volquez’s game on Sunday is a start, but he needs to do better.
In five innings, Volquez only walked one and he struck out six. Yet he carried a 4.33 earned run average into Sunday night, and he now has 21 walks and 44 strikeouts. His ratio is fairly good, but Volquez has suffered from a variety of factors for his sub-.500 start.
For starters, he is not getting much help from an anemic lineup. Pedro Alvarez is barely hitting weight with a .216 batting average. Starling Marte is at .246, albeit with 12 stolen bases. Andrew McCutchen, one year removed from an MVP season, is at .298 and has only four home runs.
Hitting like that won’t help you win too many ballgames.
The Pirates also have to know Volquez has struggled in recent seasons. He went 17-6 in 2008 with 206 strikeouts, but he has struggled to match those numbers ever since.
There is no question Volquez has to have a stronger second half. The team has shown it isn’t afraid to eat bad investments as it did with Wandy Rodriguez and his contract. Volquez’s numbers are nowhere near as bad as Rodriguez’s were at the time he was designated for assignment, but the numbers could be better.
Here’s hoping Volquez looks stronger, because the Pirates need something to keep the fans of the Steel City from thinking football in July.