Watch Your Ankles 2011 Pirates Preview: 11 PhotoShops To Love


The Pittsburgh Pirates young talent will give fans reason for hope.

Don’t look now but a few people are jumping on the Pittsburgh Pirates bandwagon.  It’s ok, there is plenty of room.  In 2011, we believe the  Pirates will continue to sell more and more tickets. By the end of the season, PNC Park will host a very young, very dangerous baseball team.  Yes, it will still have some holes to fill.  Most teams do and yes, we know what you’re thinking…how will the Pirates continue to sell tickets? Aren’t Pirates fans sick of this team?

Today and tomorrow PNC Park will be full.  The Pirates sales team is also very young, very dangerous, but they don’t have any holes.  They will continue to fill up PNC Park this year and for years to come.  And there is nothing like a Pittsburgh crowd.  Remember,  Pittsburgh was a baseball town until Franco Harris plucked a ball off the carpet and dashed the Steelers into the minds of yinzers forever. 

The big question is just how much of a impact can the Bucs young talent have on helping fill up the park?  The lack of fannies in the seat at some major league parks has garnered great attention.  We say the Pirates will do the opposite this season. 

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, a pirates prospect took a rehabbing Andy Petite yard in those playoffs, and don’t look now, but the AA Altoona club and the former Lynchburg team are rocking championship rings.

Keep telling your tired Pirates jokes. Call the Bucs 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. The Pirates could very easily become an even younger team by this time next season.

So back to the present. Do you really want to read a Pirates 2011 preview? Warning. It doesn’t look pretty.

The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates need to improve in so many areas that a 19th consecutive losing season seems inevitable.

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.

The Pirates 105 losses were the most by the franchise since 1952.

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, an on base gettin,’  knock it in the river 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 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 in 2010 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 the hearts of Bucco fans 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 as he has already jumped out to a great start.

Pirates second baseman Neil Walker won numerous awards for his performance in 2010.

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?

If Tabata can improve his road numbers, success against southpaws, and find some pop, he will be a pillar corner for Pittsburgh.

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.  AAA Indianapolis is going to be a difficult place to get a start this season.

The Pirates 2011 rotation should see an upgrade over the performance of the 2010 rotation. It wouldn’t take much effort to make that happen. But the talent of James McDonald and Ross Ohelendorf simply aren’t enough to make up for the overall shortcomings of the staff.   Charlie Morton appears ready for a rebound year.  By the second half, some pitching help will arrive solely based on the success of Bryan Morris, Rudy Owens, Jeff Locke, and Brad Lincoln in AAA . However, it would difficult to expect these young pitchers will be able to provide a significant impact for the 2011 season in Pittsburgh.

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Keep an eye on your local minor league team, there is a good chance that a young Pittsburgh Pirates stud pitcher is coming to a town near you.

The deadman's hand, Stetson Allie and Jameson Taillon, throw their first pitches as Pirates prospects in the minors.

Now the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen has some serious upside. Heat. Hard core swing and miss. Priced right. Rather youthful. If you’re at PNC Park and are 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.

Hanrahan and Meek are two outstanding options for Clint Hurdle.

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 a college arm or the phenom from Rice University Anthony Rendon.   

The organization is filled with promising pitching thanks to recent drafts 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.

Pirates fans think Anthony Rendon would look good in black and yellow. Photos:Zac Austin

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.

"I'm proud to be a Pirate and we're not going to back down from anybody"---Hurdle

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.

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The wild-eyed southern boys roll into PNC Park with their hit 'hold on loosely.' We see it all around us, a good ballclub gone bad. It's usually too late when you realize what you had.

The Pirates never forget their champions. The 1971 team will be in town to party down as they celebrate the pain they caused the Baltimore Orioles.

THE WATCH YOUR ANKLES AS YOU JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON BOTTOM LINE

Pirates 2011 best case: The Young Bucs continue to win games at home. The team embraces a road warrior mentality and gets near .500 on the road.  Hurdle’s impact on the team is visible throughout the season, even when it gets tough.  Signs point to many fans that 2011 will be the final year in the epic collapse of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club. The fielding behind a gutsy starting pitching staff  is one of the keys to the Pirates improvement. 

Right fielder Andrew Lambo goes on a monster run at AAA Indianapolis, Catcher Tony Sanchez shows improvement in all facets of his game, a SS prospect breaks out, and some of the arms in AAA come up late in the season and get some experience while the big three starts gaining steam as the season winds down.

The team doesn’t quite score the league average 710 runs, doesn’t hit .260, nor does the starting pitching get enough swings and misses, but the 2011 season shows Pirates fans just enough to believe the nightmare on Federal Street can 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 lost 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, striking out 1,605 times  and fail to score more than 600 runs.

Neal Huntington is fired and Bob Nutting announces that new GM Andy Van Slyke details a new five-year plan as yinzers jump off bridges all over town.

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Tags: Andrew McCutchen Bob Nutting Brad Lincoln Charlie Morton Clint Hurdle Garrett Jones Neil Walker Pedro Alvarez Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh Pirates Blog