Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Not Buying Pittsburgh's Hot Start

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been getting a lot of ink in the wake of their marvelous May (19-9). Despite dropping four of their past five, they still own the fourth best record in the National League and would make the playoffs as the second wild card team if the season ended today.

All I have to say is this; it's still early, and we've seen this movie twice before.

In 2011, the Pirates were leading the NL Central on the morning of July 26th. They promptly lost 12 of their next 13 and were the worst team in baseball the rest of the way, allowing more runs than every team except the Baltimore Orioles. Pittsburgh skidded to the finish line and wound up with 90 losses.

Last year, the Bucs were 16 games over .500 on the morning of August 9th. They were in second place in the NL Central, 2.5 games behindthe Cincinnati Reds, but held a 3.5 game for the second wild card spot. From that point forward, they were the worst team in the National League, going 16-36 down the stretch and blowing another shot at a .500 season.

The Pirates are no strangers to overachieving for a few months, only to collapse during the dog days of summer and remind the baseball world why they haven't had a winning season since Barry Bonds blew town after 1992.

Here in 2013, the Pirates have a new franchise outfielder--Andrew McCutchen--but the reason they're excelling is their top notch pitching, both in the rotation and in the bullpen. Ace of the staff A.J. Burnett has been the top strikeout artist in the National League, Jeff Locke has been an outstanding number two and Wandy Rodriguez has been a sturdy mid-rotation stabilizer. Francisco Liriano has rediscovered the form that made him an All-Star with Minnesota. Jeanmar Gomez provided solid starts in May before hitting the Disabled List with a strained forearm, joining fellow hurlers Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, James McDonald, and Jose Contreras.

In the 'pen, Jason Grilli (Joel Hanrahan's replacement) has emerged as baseball's best closer. His setup man, Mark Melancon, has been lights-out and has clearly put his awful year with Bobby Valentine's Boston Red Sox behind him. Middle relievers Justin Wilson, Vin Mazzaro, and Bryan Morris have all been excellent as well.

Still, I'm wary of Pittsburgh's postseason chances. The offense is mediocre, Locke and Liriano are bound to regress, and the bullpen is going to wear down. During my preseason preview I predicted another losing season for the Bucs, and I'm sticking to it.

Maybe this year will be different. It probably won't be.


  1. No difference from last year's team. Pitching cannot be this effective all year and the lack of hitting will catch up to them. Expect the same as last year of about 75-77 wins.