By Jason Shetler
In the second half of last season, the Pirates didn’t have a reliable bench, as it consisted of replacement level players such as Brent Morel, Jayson Nix and Michael Martinez. The first half of this year was more of the same with the likes of Andrew Lambo, Jose Tabata and Pedro Florimon. The midseason additions of Travis Ishikawa and Michael Morse have improved the bench to a certain degree. Ishikawa is posting a .409 on base percentage as a pinch-hitter while Morse has put up a .333 on base in that role. Although the bench has been upgraded, it might just get even better in September.
A few September call ups that the Pirates are expected to have are Corey Hart, Jaff Decker and Travis Snider. Hart’s overall numbers in 2015 have been very mediocre, but as a pinch-hitter he was batting .318. Most of Decker’s plate appearances came in pinch-hit spots, and he did an outstanding job drawing walks. Snider had success pinch-hitting with the Pirates last year, as he posted a .754 OPS. Jordy Mercer could provide help off the bench if used primarily against left-handed pitching while the same can be said for Josh Harrison, who will likely face lefties most of the time in a second base platoon with Neil Walker.
Clint Hurdle will have plenty of options to turn to off the bench for certain matchups. In the event that one of the Pirates starters doesn’t pitch deep, Hurdle will have the luxury of using a pinch-hitter early on if a game is still within reach. The bench had been a weakness for the Pirates the last couple seasons, but come September, it could become quite a strength.