For some context, here's how much worse the Pirates are than everyone in the National League right now when it comes to hitting:
High and Outside Baseball took at look at what it'd take for the Pirates offense to get back to league average after their pitiful start. The whole thing is worth your time, but here's a sampling:
The Pirates will have to average 4.34 runs a game to reach the 2011 runs/game league average. For perspective, the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies offense averaged 4.40 runs a game. The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates did not come close to averaging 4.34 Runs/Game in any month.
We could spend all day sitting here pointing fingers, saying that the Pirates need more from Barmes and Barajas (both of their OPS+ are below zero), saying that the Pirates should never be counting on Barmes and Barajas in the first place and that they need more from Alvarez and Tabata, saying that the Pirates need more from literally every person on the team and no one is exempt from that criticism, including Andrew McCutchen because 17 of his 20 hits are singles and his .400 BABIP is making me uncomfortable right now, or saying that every single one of these things are true.
Here's what I'll say: to a man, this team has an alarming lack of patience at the plate. The only player on the team that's seen any sort of playing time and taken any walks at all is Mike McKenry, who's drawn four free passes in 18 plate appearances. That ties him for the team lead with Andrew McCutchen (four walks in 62 plate appearances) and Neil Walker (four walks in 54 PAs). As a team, the Pirates are on pace for 253 walks.
It'd probably be fair to say that I'm losing the trees for the forest by focusing on walk rate with an offense that's so toothless. Still, remember that the major changes to the team's lineup this winter included adding Clint Barmes (career OBP: .300), Rod Barajas (career OBP: .286) and Alex Presley (minor league walk rate: 7.6%) to a lineup that had a OBP of .309 last year (12th in the NL).
I suppose what I'm saying is this: it's more than fair to expect the Pirates' offense to improve some based on their ugly start. It'd be the most improbable thing in the world for them to end the season with 324 runs. That said, do not dismiss these struggles out of hand because we've only seen 15 games this year. The club's biggest offensive problem by far right now is getting on base (look at the gap between them and pretty much everyone in OBP vs. the gap between them and pretty much everyone in SLG) and that's not a problem that's going to fix itself over night.
I love these posts.
I appreciate how reasonably you state the case in your last paragraph. Some people would read that and accuse you of panicking or freaking out (see recent threads at P2 or BD).
I am curious about pitches per plate appearance though, to know if that backs up your focus on walks. Because my non-researched opinion is that Barmes and Barajas can't hit. Jones is streaky, but his avg will never be high. Pedro brings this down to a whole new level of non or weak contact. I think Presley and especially Tabata will be OK, but I really don't have much hope for the rest.