Can the Pirates get by without Josh Harrison?

It’s no secret that the Pittsburgh Pirates are doing things offensively that no one could have imagined to start the 2018 season.

A big part of the success the offense is having is the start Josh Harrison has gotten off to at the top of the order.

I’ve personally never been a big Harrison guy. I guess you could say I like him, but don’t love him and I have always hated him at the top of the Pirates’ batting order, but so far this season it is working .

That’s what made seeing Harrison getting hit on the left hand by a 96-mph fastball from Jose Urena a bit tough to take because everything is working right now for the Pirates’ offense.

With the news breaking on Monday that Harrison would miss at least the next six weeks with a broken bone in his hand, you have to wonder if the Bucs will be able to continue their hot start without the services of their lead off hitter?

Spark Plug

Through the first 10 games, Harrison proved to be a little spark plug at the top of the batting order, which is what you want to see.

Harrison hit  .326/.388/.442 scoring 12 runs throughout the Pirates first 10 games, making him the first Pirates player since Rabbit Maranville in 1922 to score 12 runs and collect at least 14 hits in the team’s first 10 games.

He’s cooled off a bit the past five games, but it has still been a good start to the season for Harrison.

Slowing down

Harrison is just one for his last 14 at the plate as his overall line sits at .263/.328/.351, also still sitting at 12 runs scored on the season.

A big part of what made Harrison good the Bucs first 10 games was the fact that he was a bit more selective, drawing five walks in the Pirates first nine games, which is a high number for Harrison’s free swinging ways.

He hasn’t drawn a free pass in the past six games, which spans 19 plate appearances and a day off mixed in the middle.

The most Harrison has walked in a season was 28 times last season and you would like to see that number be much higher if Harrison is going to lead off all season, but by now he is who he is and it’s doubtful that increases much.

The Pirates will need Harrison to be productive at the top of the order.

While this little mini slump is just exactly that, it will be interesting to see how his approach is the next week or so.

Adam Frazier

Harrison was hit by pitches 23 times last season after never being hit by more than seven in a season prior. Last season’s total ranked second in the majors.

He missed the final month of the 2017 season after being hit on the same hand.

Frazier likely will get the bulk of the playing time at second base and bat at the top of the order and I would expect Max Moroff to be recalled from Triple-A.

It’s a chance for Clint Hurdle to get Frazier some more at bats and also shows off how nice the Pirates bench is this season. While only four deep at the moment, the bench has quality, which is something we haven’t been able to say in the past couple of years.

Frazier’s only had 31 plate appearances so far and is slashing .250/.300/.393.

While Frazier’s bat may get the chance to heat up, if Harrison is out for any extended period of time, Frazier just isn’t a competent fielder at second base, so I would expect to see Sean Rodriguez a lot, at least late in games.

The bottom line is that while it would be good for Frazier to get more at bats, the Pirates are at their best when Harrison is healthy and producing.

The Bucs may not miss Harrison’s bat as much as they would all of the intangibles Harrison brings to the park every day, but at the end of the day, for a team rolling, any injury at this point is a bad one and one they can’t afford.

They just have to hope Frazier keeps hitting and the combo of he, Rodriguez and Moroff can hold things down until Harrison is healthy enough to return.

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.