Yesterday we teased, today here is the full, insanely early 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates season preview.
In 2011, the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue to sell more and more tickets. By the end of the season, PNC Park will host a very young, very dangerous, but a still, bad baseball team. Yeh, we know what you’re thinking…how will the Pirates continue to sell tickets? Aren’t Pirates fans sick of this team?
It’s pretty easy to look back now and see the Pirates were an utter disaster when Neal Huntington took over. A lot of fans simply didn’t realize just how putrid the team had become.
As Pirates fans we have never been able to see squads of talent waiting on the horizon. But now, unlike the previous regime, young and talented players are working towards PNC Park. The days of aging minor league filler are slowly waning. The Pirates minor leagues are filled with talented teams of players putting up solid numbers, missing bats, and hitting bombs. Some of the teams have made their league playoffs, have taken a rehabbing Andy Petite yard, while the AA Altoona club and the former Lynchburg team are rocking championship rings.
Keep telling your tired Pirates jokes. Call us the laughingstock. But I think you can hear us coming. If not, here are eleven reasons why you will want to come out to the best ball yard in the world to see the Bucs this year. Or not. We’re not big on strangers in this town anyway.
The 2011 Pirates team is a blend of potential stars, solid performers, rebound wanna-bes, soft tossers, and hanger ons. It won’t look this way in 2012. And 2013 will be something special, well for Pirates fans anyway.
So back to the present. Do you really want to read a Pirates 2011 preview? Warning. It doesn’t look pretty.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been bad for a long time. But in 2010 they were finally over-the-top, worst in the league, awful. The Bucs didn’t perform poorly in just one area, they sucked in most every offensive, defensive, and pitching category.
Enough of the past, let’s look at exhibit number one in our reasons to come to PNC Park in 2011. Checking in at number one is the player who is going to destroy your favorite pitcher for the next ten years. His name is Pedro Alvarez. He is a 24-year old, 30-homer- a- year- hittin, on base gettin’ machine, clean-up hittin’ Pittsburgh Pirate.
In 2010, Alvarez hit a bomb about every 22 times up at the dish. Was his .341 BABIP luck, or just baseballs being crucified coming off his Louisville? Time will tell, but I am going with Alvarez being a baseball killer. (You should too.)
We have Andrew McCutchen. You don’t. It sucks to be you. Stop drooling.
Cutch is 24. Cutch plays hurt. Cutch puts up big numbers. Cutch makes you jealous. And stop doing reading those ridiculous blogs with insane trade scenarios offering up cannon fodder for McCutchen. It’s not happening.
Neil Walker burst into the big leagues thanks to the failings of Aki Iwamura and never looked back. All he did was become the best rookie second-baseman in Major League Baseball.
Walker had the sixth highest slugging (.462) and OPS (.811) at the position. He came out hot, but suffered a concussion in June, courtesy of a Ryan Church knee, that made plenty hearts skip a beat. Not to worry, Walker rebounded strong with a five hit night in July, and then highlighted his season with an 18-game hitting steak from August 23 to September 12. Walker ripped 29 doubles in 426 at-bats and his 54 second-half RBI was fifth in MLB.
All of these impressive numbers were earned as Walker learned how to play second base while playing second base. In 2011, Pirates fans are excited to see what “Hometown” will do for an encore.
Jose Tabata is 22 years old. Noticing a trend? We like ‘em young in the Steel City.
Tabata put up 121 hits in his first 405 at-bats in the majors. He did some of his best work when it mattered most as he ranked third in MLB with runners in scoring position as he ripped at a .380 clip. The rookie had 30 clutch hits including seven doubles and three triples. Tabata is also dangerous on the basepaths and with some improvements could easily steal 30 bases this season.
In 2011, Tabata should only get better as he struggled on the road losing .200 plus OPS points and will need to improve against those lefties. But did we say he is….. ahem, 22?
The Pirates starting rotation screams….”Move along there is nothing to see here!”
The main reason is that nearly all of the Bucs talented arms down on the farm. The most seasoned pitched for AA Altoona in 2010, the Eastern League Champions. All four should be at AAA sometime this season.
Now the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has some serious upside. Heat. Hard core swing and miss. Priced right. Youthful. If you’re at PNC Park and fortunate enough to see the Bucs in the eighth inning with a lead, the game is in good hands. It won’t be long until those Zambelli fireworks will be exploding in the Pittsburgh sky.
On the bright side, the awfulness of 2010 will have its rewards. It will equate to the top pick in this summer’s amateur draft. All eyes point to the Pirates selecting Rice University phenom Anthony Rendon. He would add to an improving Pirates farm system.
The organization is filled with promising pitching thanks to last years draft and the work of Rene Gayo. In 2010, the Bucs locked up RHPs Jameson Taillon, Stetson Allie, and Luis Heredia. The AA franchise won the Eastern League title, but those successful pitchers still need seasoning and should not be rushed. The talent is coming, will the Pirates be able to hang on to Cutch and Pedro once it arrives is the question all of Pittsburgh will be watching.
Clint Hurdle was hired to turn around the Pirates. The offseason included adding veteran help, new coaches, and a connection to the fanbase that hasn’t been seen since Jim Leyland. Will it translate to wins on the field? It damn well better. A city that loves baseball is growing weary waiting on rebuilding plans while the next generation would rather skate than swing a ball bat.
One of the most clicked categories on the Pirates website is promotions and events. For good reason, rarely are the Pirates competitive after the All-Star break. It’s as if the Pirates brass expects the team to be well out of the race and packs the second half of the schedule with entertainment.
We raise our mis-printed commemorative 1960 World Series Championship stein and toast the best collection of Pirates young talent in many years. May this 2011 season be the last one that sees PNC Park fill up with fans in the eighth inning as fans roll in for the Skyblast Fireworks and post-game concerts.
When you buy your tickets at SeatGeek make sure you grab ones on the third base side for the best view of Pedro Alvarez, and of course the post-game fireworks.
Pirates 2011 best case: The Young Bucs continue to win games at home. The team embraces a road warrior mentality and improves its dismal road record and begins to show signs that 2011 will be the final year in the epic collapse of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club. The defense improves behind a gutsy starting pitching staff that rebounds just enough to improve the Bucs.
Right fielder Andrew Lambo goes on a monster run at AAA Indianapolis, Catcher Tony Sanchez shows improvement in all facets of his game, SS Chase D’Arnaud breaks out, and some of the arms in AAA come up late in the season and get some experience. The team doesn’t quite score the league average 710 runs, doesn’t hit .260, nor does the pitching get enough swings and misses, but the 2011 season shows Pirates fans just enough to believe the nightmare on Federal Street will come to an end in 2012.
Pirates 2011 worst case: Groundhog Day. Deja Vu all over again. Injuries mount in the minor leagues backing up the potential for a 2013 breakout. Injuries at the major league level cause the Pirates to use replacement level starting pitchers again in 2011.
Players like Matt Diaz and Lyle Overbay are overused stealing valuable playing time from young players who deserve a look. The road warrior mentality is replaced with road woes and the losses continue to pile up. The Pirates defense never improves behind a very hittable starting rotation and the offense is once again offensive and fails to score more than 600 runs.
Neal Huntington is fired and new GM Andy Van Slyke details a new five-year plan as yinzers jump off bridges all over town.
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[We were asked to do this insanely early preview of the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates season at SeatGeek.com. SeatGeek is a cool site if you are looking for event tickets for example if you wanted to get Pittsburgh Steelers tickets for this weekend or Pirates tickets for the home opener go to the site, and every available ticket on all secondary sites like StubHub, etc are listed. Sweet.]