2022 Season Review: Pittsburgh Pirates

Check out Jack Kruger’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the Pirates here.

Image: Joe Sargent / Getty Images

2022 Record: 62-100 (.383 win%, 4th in Division)

2022 Payroll: $85,145,331 (27th)

2022 Lineup:

1. DH Daniel Vogelbach .228 AVG/.338 OBP/.430 SLG, 1.4 fWAR

2. CF Bryan Reynolds .262 AVG/.345 OBP/.461 SLG, 3.0 fWAR

3. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes  .244 AVG/.314 OBP/.345 SLG, 4.3 fWAR

4. LF Ben Gamel .232 AVG/.324 OBP/.369 SLG, 0 fWAR

5. 1B Michael Chavis .229 AVG/.265 OBP/.389 SLG, -0.2 fWAR

6. SS Oneil Cruz  .233 AVG/.294 OBP/.450 SLG, 2.3 fWAR

7. 2B Kevin Newman .273 AVG/.316 OBP/.372 SLG, 1.1 fWAR

8. RF Cal Mitchell .226 AVG/.286 OBP/.349 SLG, -0.4 fWAR

9. C Jason Delay .213 AVG/.265 OBP/.536 SLG, 0.2 fWAR

2022 Rotation:

1. Mitch Keller, 125.2 IP/4.44 ERA/1.21 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

2. JT Brubaker, 120.2 IP/4.40 ERA/1.22 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR

3. Zach Thompson, 103.1 IP/3.66 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 2.7 fWAR

4. Bryse Wilson, 98.0 IP/6.06 ERA/1.63 WHIP, -0.7 fWAR

5. Roansy Contreras, 95 IP/3.79 ERA/1.27 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

2022 Top 4 Relievers:

1. CL David Bednar, 51.2 IP/2.61 ERA/1.123 WHIP, 1.3 fWAR

2. Wil Crowe, 76 IP/4.38 ERA/1.395 WHIP, 0.1 fWAR

3. Dwayne Underwood, 57.1 IP/4.40 ERA/1.448 WHIP, -0.5 fWAR

4. Chase DeJong, 71.2 IP/2.64 ERA/1.144 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

Regular Season Recap

Following the last two seasons with records of 19-41 and 61-101, it is safe to say that the Pittsburgh Pirates came into this season deep in a rebuild. No one, besides diehard fans, expected this team to come out with a winning record, let alone playoff contention. And although this team finished with 100+ losses for the second straight season, for the organization and fans alike, there were signs of growth and hopes for the future. There were multiple factors that made this seemingly abysmal season exciting for Pirate fans.

The Rookies

The Pittsburgh Pirates began this season with a respectable record through the first 16 games at 8-8. At that point forward, their record would only get worse. By about the quarter mark in the season, it was clear that this ballclub had no postseason hopes and began the continuous cycle of calling up prospects and looking to grab others via trade.

15 different prospects made their MLB Debut this season for Pittsburgh, and that doesn’t even count other different players such as Oneil Cruz and Roansy Contreras who had made their debut last year, but were sent down for one reason or another. At multiple points in the season, fans were able to witness a rookie-dominated lineup with sometimes up to ⅔ of the hitters having made their debut in the past year. 

Only one prospect, Diego Castillo, the preseason standout, was able to make the opening day roster. As the season progressed, we saw the debuts of Jack Suwinski, Tucapita Marcano, and Cal Mitchell in late April until early May. However, It wasn’t until mid-June, that the highly touted Prospect Oneil Cruz made his electric season debut going 2-5 (single and double) with 4 RBI on June 20.

On the pitching side of things, Pirates fans got to get a really good look at Roansy Contreras who played with the Pirates for a majority of the season. Contreras, who made his Major League debut at the end of the 2021 season, started his career with a strong rookie season. Towards the end of the season, Pirates fans also got to see 24 year old Johan Oviedo, who was acquired in the Jose Quintana trade, and the 23 year old Luis Ortiz as September call-ups. Both of these starters made a case to be a part of the starting rotation next season as Oviedo put up a 3.21 ERA in 56 innings this season, while Luis Ortiz impressed in his 16 innings of work.  

Fans got to witness the future of the Pirates this season, and although no one in the Buccos young core may have put up the numbers that one may have hoped for, it is ignorant to say they were not moving in the right direction. Don’t forget, Liover Peguero, Quinn Priester, and Nick Gonzales are all expected to join the roster next year. Even Henry Davis, the Pirates number one pick just two drafts ago, could see some big league time next year. 

Oneil Cruz

How could one not spend more time talking about the electric 6’7” shortstop who may have hit the hardest ball ever recorded. For about the first month that Oneil Cruz came to the plate, Everyone in PNC Park would pull out their phones to record what would happen next. 

On August 24, in a loss against the Cubs, he blasted the hardest hit ball ever recorded, at 122.4 MPH, for a SINGLE! With over a 91.5 MPH average exit velocity, and a 46.1% hard hit rate in his rookie year, he will be an exciting player to continue to watch throughout his career. For reference, the average exit velocity is 87+ MPH and hard hit rate sat around 35% this year. 

While these numbers are not among those of Aaron Judge or Paul Goldschmidt, who both had outstanding seasons, Oneil Cruz is only a rookie and has a lot of time to improve. Even as a rookie however, the power numbers were incredible, hitting 17 home runs in only 87 games. At that rate, in a full 162 game season, he would have hit around 31 home runs. 

Not only can he hit, but Oneil Cruz can also provide excitement with his fielding arm and baserunning. He has thrown the hardest ball ever recorded by an infielder. On July 14th, Oneil Cruz threw a ball 97.4 MPH across the diamond. The average toss is around 85 MPH. He also has the ability to turn on the jets around the basepaths, having a top sprint speed of 31.5 feet/second. For any football fans, that is faster than Tyreek Hill’s fastest sprint speed of 31.4 feet/second. Oneil Cruz is going to be a top player in MLB one day, there is no other way to frame it. As a Pirates fan, I’m glad that I get to witness his growth to being a superstar.

Pitching Staff 

The pitching staff, as a whole, was not great, but there were players on it that showed promise and excitement. For starters, Mitch Keller had a turnaround year. Keller, who had an ERA of 6.17 a year ago, who looked as if he was going to have another tough year, with an ERA of 5.83 through his first 10 appearances (8 starts), still finished with a final ERA of 3.91. Most of this turnaround is centered around a new pitch that he added to his arsenal, a sinker. From July forward, Keller had a 2.93 ERA in 89 innings (16 starts). 

Another bright spot on this staff was rookie Roansy Contreras. Contreras had a very strong first season throwing up a 3.79 ERA in 95 innings pitched. Contreras was sent down twice throughout the season, once at the start of the season, and also right before the trade deadline to get the trade chip looks. 

Overall, Contreras looked electric and unhittable at times, while other times his rookie shined through. Fans like myself would hope that the 0.225 batting average against and the 2.21:1 walk to strike out ratio will improve over the coming season, however, without a doubt Roansey Contreras shined in his first full season. 

When it comes to the bullpen, we had a nice surprise in Will Crowe. As a starter, Crowe struggled last year. However, when he was placed into the bullpen at the beginning of this year, he started to perform very well. He earned himself the set-up role toward the middle of the year after the Pirates traded Chris Stratton, and earned the closer role while Bednar was out. His final ERA of 4.59 was skewed by the poor end of season performance, but overall, his ability to generate soft contact with only a 25.9% hard hit rate and average exit velocity of 86.4 MPH was a very pleasant surprise to a hurting bullpen. 

Of course, it is impossible to talk about the Pittsburgh Bullpen without discussing their All-Star candidate David Bednar, known as “The Renegade.” Bednar had turned into an elite closer and without doubt earned himself a spot in the All-Star Game this year. Although he was held back by a mid-season back injury, Bednar finished the season with 19 SV, a ERA of 2.61, and an elite K/9 over 12.

Overall, the Pirates struggled in almost every single stat category: 0.222 BA (2nd worst); 3.65 Runs/Game (4th worst); 0.221BA w RISP (worst); 5.04 runs against per game (3rd worst); 4.66 ERA (4th worst); 121 errors (worst). However, putting these statistics in perspective, with a lineup dominated by youth, it starts to make sense. And although losing 100 games is ideal there were undeniable bright spots throughout the season to match those disappointments.

M-SABR Predicted Record 62-100 vs. Actual (62-100)

Jack Kruger nailed almost every aspect of the season preview, especially the record. The offense was anemic for most of the season, the pitching struggled throughout the season, and the lack of talent on the roster definitely showed. Although Bryan Reynolds did not have his best season, he still contributed enough to the offense to keep the offense from being the worst in the league. 

The veteran leader of the rotation, Jose Quintana, showed that he still had something in the tank, pitching well enough for the Pirates to flip him for 2 prospects. Jack was correct in saying that there was not that much going for the Pirates this season and we would have to wait until the wave of talent in the Minors makes its way to the Majors in the upcoming seasons. 

Surprise of the Season

For the Pittsburgh Pirates, the surprise of the season had to be Jose Quintana. Quintana, who struggled for the previous 3 seasons, signed to a 1-year, $2 million deal with the Pirates in the offseason. In his first 20 starts, Quintana put up a 3.50 ERA, putting him on many teams’ radar for the trade deadline. He was ultimately traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Johan Oviedo and Malcom Nuñez.

Honorable Mention to Jack Suwinski. Suwinski started the year in Double-A, but when injuries called for him to make an emergency start, he did not disappoint. Although for the year he only hit .203, his raw power shined as he hit 19 home runs, the 5th most among all rookies in MLB.

Players We Watched

Before the beginning of the season, Season Preview author Jack Kruger named three different players to look out for at the beginning of the season. Here is the breakdown of how they played.

Mitch Keller

Keller was mentioned earlier as one of the bright spots in the Pirates season. After posting an ugly ERA of 6+ in the past year Pirate fans finally got to see the former 2nd round pick break out in a big way. This season, not only did he lower his ERA, but his H/9 dropped to 9.2 from 11.7 last season, his HR/9 lowered to 0.8 from 0.9, and to almost every Pirates fans relief, his control improved as his BB/9 fell from 4.4 last year to 3.4 this season. He finished off the season strong after starting off rocky which fuels many Fans hope that he will retain this form for next season.

Oneil Cruz

While Oneil Cruz didn’t make his season debut until mid-season, he showed flashes of potential of the player that every Pirates fan hoped that he would be. While his average was not eye-popping and his strikeout percentage was in the bottom 1% of the league, the raw-power that he showed was equaled by no-other. Cruz had not only the hardest hit ball of the season, but of all time. Comparing that with his ability to whip the ball across the infield and elite speed, Cruz has the potential to put up numbers that rival some of the best players of all time.

Bryan Reynolds

After putting up stellar numbers last year, and even garnering some MVP votes, expectations for Bryan Reynolds were higher than ever going into the 2022 season. However, this season was a down year. While his HR total increased by 3, all of his other stats took a hit with his average falling about 40 points from .302 last season to .262 this season, his OBP dropping to .345 from .390 last year, and his OPS struggling to remain above .800, sitting at .807.

Offseason Outlook

I highly doubt that the Pirates are going to make a big offseason splash. Instead, I expect what they have done in years past. Possibly sign a veteran pitcher to help guide the young rotation and fill in all other gaps in their lineup with middle of the road players until young talent can replace them. 

It would surprise me if they were that active this offseason, as I believe that they are still in their rebuild, and not in the “win now” mindset yet. They have a lot of talent in their minor league affiliates. All fans have to be patient.

Something to Watch

Keep an eye on what they decide to do with Kevin Newman. Newman, a first round pick in 2015, may not have a spot anymore with Oneil Cruz in the Majors and Liover Peguero and Nick Gonzales to make their debut soon. It will be interesting to see how they deal with this situation. Do they re-sign Newman and switch Cruz to the outfield or do they keep him in the infield and let Newman go to free agency.

Categories: 2022 Season Review, Articles, Post-COVID

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2 replies

  1. Great stuff, this from an old lifelong Pirate fan. Thanks for all the hard work.

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