Pittsburgh Pirates ability to hit the long ball coming as a surprise

So far, the Pittsburgh Pirates can do no wrong when it comes to swinging the bats, leading the National League in almost every statistical category; including batting average (.278), OBP (.353) and slugging percentage (.479).

However one of the biggest surprises has been the uptick in power this Pirates lineup has shown as entering Friday they also lead the NL in homers with 17 and are tied for fifth in all of baseball.

Many were very concerned about the Pirates limited potential for power this season, but that hasn’t been the case so far.

It’s only been 12 games, but perhaps the Pirates 9-3 record isn’t as big as a surprise as their ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark right now.

Power is drained

The 2017 season didn’t go very well from a power perspective for the Bucs.

They finished next to last in all of baseball with just 151 total dingers and were coming into the season fresh off trading Andrew McCutchen, who accounted for 28 of those.

With the trend in baseball shifting to a power game, the Pirates all but looked to be behind the times.

By comparison, on how impressive the 17 homer start to the season is, the Pirates hit just nine through 12 games last season and four of those came in one afternoon at Wrigley Field

Our Nathan Hursh looked at how the newcomers Corey Dickerson and Colin Moran have impacted the Pirates lineup, but some familiar faces are also off to good power starts.

Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco

A big reason for the power surge has been Marte and Polanco.

Neal Huntington repeated over and over during the offseason that having Marte in uniform for a full season and a healthy Polanco would make a world of difference and so far it has.

Polanco is second in the majors with five homers as only Bryce Harper has more through 12 games.

Marte has a pair, but his approach has been great and the power should play more this year than it has in the past if he keeps it up.

To compare, at this time last season, Polanco and Marte had combined for just two homers, with Marte having both of them.

Polanco didn’t hit his first homer last season until May 11.

Coming into the season it was a big if on weather Polanco and Marte could produce at a high enough level for the Pirates to compete.

It’s a small sample size, but so far the results are positive.

Overall approach.

This has been the biggest key for me as 1-8 in the lineup, no one is trying to do too much.

Everyone is hitting the ball where it is pitched and it has become contagious.

They are walking at a rate of over 10 percent and not striking out. Their K rate of 16.4 percent is the second lowest in the majors.

The approach of Moran and Dickerson has been great and I can’t say enough about Marte not chasing after bad pitches.

Marte’s walked seven times already.

Add all of that up and they have put themselves in a good enough spot to punish mistakes when they get them.

The bench is deep with guys that can hit the ball out of the ballpark as well as Adam Frazier, Sean Rodriguez and David Freese have already homered.

It’s only been 12 games and the Pirates can revert back to having next to no power in a hurry.

But just as the early season wins have come as a surprise, so has the increase in home runs.

This lineup has the potential to be pretty good. They are going to hit on most nights.

If that’s the case, expect the ball to keep flying over the wall as well.

Matt Shetler

Matt is a life long Pirates fan with both a newspaper and radio background. Before coming to Pirates Breakdown he was most recently the co-owner and lead columnist for Pittsburgh Sporting News. He has been a credentialed writer for all four major sports and also has written for plenty of other sports and fantasy sports websites.