Friday, March 28, 2008

The Pittsburgh Pirates 2008

The Pirates are about to embark on another campaign, and it is time for my annual predictions. The Pirates have some major questions going into this year.

Question #1 – Bullpen – the Pirates lost a good deal of their bullpen, which was not that great anyway. They are keeping John Grabow, Desmond Marte, and Matt Cappas. However, they are adding a great deal of unknown material. Fraquelis Osario is a hard thrower who has no real experience. Phil Dumatrait is a former starter who never broke into the big leagues and is now trying out long relief. Evan Meek is a right hander with potential, but never thrown above AA in his life. The Pirates made a last minute trade to acquire Tyler Yates from the Braves. He has 152 games under his belt, but he had a rocky spring with a different team. These people have to step up if the Pirates want to go anywhere.

Outlook – Good. I think the Pirates actually did well in reconstructing their bullpen. The last minute trade probably helped, and Marte and Cappas are solid at the back of the pen. Osario pitched very well and Grabow has too. The only questions for me are Meek and Dumatrait. Both were out pitched by Sean Burnett, who was sent to AAA. Those two got the job because neither would have remained with the Pirates if they had not made the major leagues. I hope to see Burnett before the year is over and he does provide solid back up to any failures in the pen.

Question #2 – Manager. The Pirates fired their manager from last year, and have hired a relative unknown. John Russel is the new man at the helm. What will he do and what kind of coach will he be? Who knows that is why this is a question mark.

Outlook – Great. Their last coach was a loser. The decisions made by this guy during spring training make me happy with the lone exception of Burnett, but you can understand why that one had to be done. Every other choice, like taking only two catchers to free up an extra spot on the bench, are great decisions.

Question #3 – Consistency. Can the Pirates starters put together multiple good years. Zack Duke was 8-2 with an ERA under 2 in 2005. Since then he has been a train wreck. Ian Snell was 14-11 in 2006, but failed to win 10 games in 2007 (although he did improve his ERA). Tom Grozelanny won 14 last year, but the trend is to take a step back. Someone has to put up a good year and someone else has to live up to past performances.

Outlook – Good. Duke has pitched great in the spring. Snell has done well and Paul Malhom has steadily improved in his couple of years. Grozelanny had a shaky spring, but strong last outing. I think that at least two of these pitchers will have a good year, and hopefully Matt Morris will not stink. He had a bad spring and keeps this outlook from being better.

Question #4 – Bounce back years. Last year many of the Pirates had career worst years. Ronny Paulino went from a .300 hitter to below .250 without the power. Jason Bay had his worst year ever. Adam LaRoche had another very slow start not breaking the Mendoza Line for the first two months. Freddy Sanchez was injured all Spring Training last year and so struggled out of the gate and Xavier Nady had injuries off and on all year (although he put up normal numbers when he played).

Outlook – Encouraging. Sanchez has an injury, but it does bother his hitting. And surely Bay will return to form and Nady looks healthy. That should be enough. Paulino probably will not be a .300 hitter, but he will improve on last year. LaRoche cannot have another slow start. Things hinge on that.

Over all I am happy with the way the Pirates are looking. They have the talent at the plate. They have talent on the mound. McClouth won the center field job out right and Nijer Morgan is a great back up for the outfield. These two ought to fix the leadoff hitter hole. Jack Wilson will perform wherever he ends up in the line up and the other guys are ready all coming off really bad years so that has to look good. The only hole is third base with Jose Bautista. It is enough of a problem that it could cost the Pirates the playoffs. Their bench is a little shaky, but Doug Mientkiewicz shows signs of being solid off the bench. The rest of the bench needs to grow up quickly. Ryan Doumit is the power on the bench and will see a lot of starts at first, right, and catcher. However, as the back up catcher he will not get so many pinch hits.

Prediction – I think the Pirates can with the NL Central, but will get bumped in the first round of the playoffs. The Central is weak as the Cubs are vulnerable. The Cards are weak, the Reds are weak, and the Brewers are young. The Astros are garbage. Thus, the Pirates have as good a shot as anyone, and I think this is their year.

Prediction #2 – If they are not in a serious playoff hunt at the trading deadline the management will blow this team up. Nady will be traded in a heartbeat. Matt Morris will be on the block. Jack Wilson will be gone. Even Jason Bay is not safe. If they could find someone to take Jose Bautista they would get rid of him too. The Pirates next year will feature Pearce in Right, McCutchen in Left, Bixler at short, Walker at third, and Dumatrait in the rotation.


angelsinger64 said...

HA! You want to act like the Pirates have a chance...I'm sorry buddy but my prediction is they will be last this year...