Division Preview: Pittsburgh

Good Morning. Time For Division Preview Part Three: The Pittsburgh Pirates

Summary:

The Pirates, despite not having made the World Series, are one of the best stories in baseball the last few years. They’ve figured out how to win on a tight budget and have been a thorn in the Cardinals side. They’re a good team, and if they weren’t in our division, I’d be rooting for them along with my other favorite Non-Cardinals teams (A’s, Rays).

Three Reasons Why They’re Worth Watching.

1)  That Outfield.

Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco compose what is perhaps the best outfield in the game today. McCutchen is a former MVP who’s still in his prime at 28, Marte is a young veteran who, at age 26 put up a .287/.337/.444 slash line which included 19 homers. He also won a Gold Glove and stole 30 bases, and ended up with 5.4 WAR. Finally, there’s Polanco, a 23 year old who played in first full season last year, providing speed and good defense. His slash line of .256/.322/.390 is solid, and remember he’s only 23, so that’s probably the worst line he’ll have for a long time. Plus, he drew 55 walks at that age, showing he already has solid plate discipline.

2) More Pitching Voodoo Magic

Pitching coach Ray Searage and the Pirates staff have a history of turning pitchers around. This years big project seems to be Jon Niese, formerly of the Mets. He was 9-10 with the Mets last year with a 4.13 ERA, worth 0.2 WAR. I’ll take the over that Neise has a better year under Searage’s tutelage.

3) The Bullpen

They have two of the best relievers in the National League in Mark Melancon and Tony Watson. Watson, a reliever who pitched 75 innings and earned just one save, earned 2.5 WAR, more than quite a few decent starters. And Melancon saved 51 out of 53 attempted saves, and had 1.9 WAR himself. Add in other solid pieces like Jared Hughes, and you have a bullpen nobody wants to face.

Three Reasons Why We’ll Beat Them

1) Deeper Rotation

Which rotation would you rather have? Adam Wainwright/Michael Wacha/Carlos Martinez/Jaime Garcia/Mike Leake or Francisco Liriano/Gerrit Cole/Jon Neise/Jeff Locke/Juan Nicasio? Both are solid but I think ours is deeper overall. To me Nicasio is a bit of a question mark, as is Neise, even with Searage and Co’s Voodoo. For us the issue is mainly health. Can we get a full season out of Garcia finally?

2) More Lineup Options

The Cards have more depth. Let’s use First Base As our example: We have four guys, Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, Matt Adams and Stephen Piscotty who could play there. Compare that to the Pirates trio of Michael Morse, John Jaso and our old buddy David Freese? Which group would *you* rather have? I just hope that having so many options that can play multiple positions doesn’t make Mike Matheny’s head explode.

3) Matt Carpenter

This is personal one for me. Carp is my favorite player on the Cardinals. His ability to adapt to whatever the Cards need is incredible, and not many players can do that. Many consider last years power surge a fluke. I don’t. I fully expect him to hit 25 or more homers again this year. He’s also a great off the field leader. Carp, a notorious cage rat leads by example, showing the kids how much work needs to be done to succeed at the big league level. To me Carp, along with Yadier Molina and Wainwright, is one of the three faces of the Cardinals: Yadi for defense, Waino for pitching, and Carp for offense. The Pirates have Cutch, and the Cards have Carp.

Conclusion:

These guys will give us a run for our money, but our overall depth will help us finish higher than them in the end.

 

As as always, thanks for reading.

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