Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates, At-a-Glance

For the superstitious one still existing in my brain, I'm hoping a different home for me means a different result for my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates.

Opening Day is certainly still a holiday for Pittsburghers without any particular reason why. The team has been bad for years and doesn't seem to be turning the corner hard enough to think this year will be significantly different. The difference this year? They know what it feels like. A division lead in July was a real thing last year. One friend of mine suggested he'd buy my plane ticket home for the NLCS if the Bucs got there. Those sort of conversations were really happening last summer. Pittsburgh reminded the league that they're a baseball town. I'm no expert, but let me get into my thoughts on this season.

You could easily consult Joe Starkey or Dejan Kovacevic to reference the stats, the scores, the streak, the reasons why the Pirates will or won't succeed this year. That's not really my gig. However, I will consult some facts. The Pirates have a superstar in Andrew McCutchen. He's a strong defensive CF with some power and a lot of speed. He's young and becoming more disciplined. That could be said of several other important players, like Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker. Those four together give Pirates fans hope of an entertaining day at the ballpark every day.

Pitching? It was a lot better last year. Karstens, McDonald, Correia and Morton showed some promise that showed their potential. Add the injury-prone Erik Bedard and the currently-injured AJ Burnett and the Pirates rotation has some more depth and promise than it has had in recent memory. I've been one to suggest the Pirates have needed a veteran, like Burnett, to join the team with some experience in winning (World Series with the Yankees), so his leadership in that rotation should show as the year goes on. The bullpen is also pretty talented, led by Joel Hanrahan.

So there are some things that are promising. I won't pull out the numbers because I just don't have time, but I'll say the Pirates will flirt with .500 this year. I don't see them breaking it yet, but if some things fall into place, like Pedro Alvarez erasing his abysmal Spring Training or AJ Burnett regaining his top-of-the-rotation form in a low-pressure environment, then they could easily compete with a weaker NL Central. The 1997 Freak Show Pirates didn't have as much promise as this team and they came close to breaking the streak (79-83, 5 GB in the divison). With that in mind, anything can happen. Let's go Bucs.

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