Insider Reveled Pittsburgh Pirates plan on sacking their manager

To the Pittsburgh Pirates: Although it’s not too late, a change is essential.

Pittsburgh Pirates, there is still time to turn things around.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates are not in a good mood in late April. They have lost their last five games as of this writing. They are 11-10, and their lack of hitting is a major factor in those ten losses. It’s too many close games lost by them. Many fans have properly called for Andy Haines to be fired, so something has to be done.

Thus, I am writing to the Pittsburgh Pirates as a fervent fan to let them know that a change is necessary and that it’s not too late to make one.

Right now, they have five batters with an OPS below.600—not one, not two. This year, the league average OPS is.701. As of this writing, they rank third in baseball for strikeouts. The fact that they lead the league in so-called strike threes is even more worrisome. They’re not swinging at meatball pitches nearly as frequently as they ought to, despite seeing a respectable number of them. They have a below-average barrel rate as a result of having the sixth-highest chase rate. Three-run deficits feel like ten-run deficits right now. The offense has been so bad that the Pirates have thrown away several excellent beginnings.

However, this is nothing new for Andy Haines’ offenses. The Brewers had the fifth-highest strikeout rate while he was with them. Every year during Haines’ tenure, the Brew Crew was in the top ten for called strikeouts. During Haines’ tenure, the Brewers as a team hit.235/.312/.396 with a.314 wOBA. Between 2019 and 2021, the average triple-slash in the NL was.247/.321/.419.

Under Haines, the Brewers failed to produce a single rookie who was successful over the course of 2019–2021. Hirua Keston is the nearest. He performed admirably as a rookie in 2019, but he had severe difficulties in 2020 and 2021. His most recent season in the major leagues, 2022, saw him emerge from under Haines and record his greatest wRC+ since his rookie campaign in ’19, at 115. During Haines’ tenure as their hitting instructor, only Luis Urias emerged as a true standout.

Nearly all of the batters who were good for the Brewers from 2019 to 2021 were already good. Only one player in these four seasons had a wRC+ of 100 or greater during this three-season stretch while previously never being an above-average hitter prior to their time in Milwaukee. That was Jace Peterson, who had a 76 wRC+ prior to arriving with the Brewers, then a 100 wRC+, on the dot, during the two seasons he spent with Haines.

It might be a big ask as to who will replace Haines mid-season. If they were to let him go in the first half of this year (which they should), the assistant hitting coach Christian Marrero would likely take over the primary duties, but manager Derek Shelton could also see an increase in responsibility. Shelton has an excellent resume as a hitting coach. Shelton’s first gig as a hitting coach was in 2003 with Cleveland in their minor league system. In 2005 he was promoted to Major League hitting coach and was in that role until 2009. From 2004 through 2009, they were one of the best offenses in baseball, hitting .270/.343/.437 with a 106 wRC+. Many players broke out and took steps forward in the Major Leagues during this stretch, including Shin-Soo Choo, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, and Coco Crisp, just to name a few.

Shelton then moved on to be the hitting coach for the Tampa Bay Rays for the next seven seasons. The Rays were also a solid hitting team during that time, slashing .247/.320/.413 with a 102 wRC+. A lot of players did well under Shelton’s tutelage, like Wil Myers, Logan Forsythe, Kevin Kiermaier, and former Pirates including Matt Joyce and John Jaso.

Shelton departed Tampa to head North of the border to the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2017 season. He was brought in as a quality control coach. Between 2017 and 2018, the Blue Jays were ranked as the 20th-best farm system by Baseball America. Heading into 2018, they were ranked as the 7th best. But Shelton was in Toronto for one season. He then headed back to the USA to be the bench coach of the Minnesota Twins.

Shelty spent the next two years as the Twins’ bench coach. During that time, they produced a 179-145 record, a winning percentage of .552. The Twins were good hitters too, as they batted .260/.328/.450 with a 106 wRC+. In 2019, they broke the single-season home run record with 307 dingers and eight players with more than 20 home runs (ten with a dozen or more). Part of the power was because of 2019’s juiced baseball, but still an impressive feat nonetheless.

As a collective unit, Shelton’s teams when he is the hitting coach (so not including his tenure in Minnesota) have hit .256/.327/.470. They hit for a lot of power with a .214 isolated slugging percentage, while also striking out less than 20% of the time (19.9%, to be exact). They also had a respectable 8.9% walk rate with an overall wOBA of .327.

I haven’t seen this much dislike among fans for a sports coach who didn’t commit a felony crime since the Pittsburgh Steelers and their former offensive coordinator Matt Canada. It’s getting to the point where Pittsburgh fans are starting to make a comparison to the two.

Pirates fans are beyond frustrated with Haines and the offense, and reasonably so.

The line-up has gotten torn to shreds the last few weeks. The Pirates are losing too many games where they are more than within striking distance, and are doing so while failing to take advantage of crucial situations. They now have seven losses where they took the L when trailing by four or fewer runs. Four of them happened where they had at least ten hits plus walks combined.

All I can say is that I support the Pirates with all of my heart and have complete faith in them. This squad, in my opinion, has skill and has what it takes to be among the finest Pirates squads in a long time. A significant transformation can yet be made. I saw the cross-state Philadelphia Phillies go 22–29 a year ago before manager Joe Girardi was fired and things were shaken up. They had a run and won the World Series after that. In the first month of the 2024 season, Pittsburgh needs to make the same changes since its 26-man roster and nine-man lineup are too talented to continue as they are.

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