On paper, the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates team has the best talent assembled in Pittsburgh in quite some time. In large part that’s due to $13 million dollars of the team’s payroll being paid by other teams. But let’s not kid ourselves – it will take a lot for the Pirates to prove they can stay in the fight in the NL Central.
Last year the Bucs chose to “wait until the time was right,” which was after Andrew McCutchen was drilled and then vanished in a horrific display of guts down the stretch. We were there for the final game of the season at PNC Park. The team looked like a ghost of the one that caught the hearts and souls of “Zoltan” flashing Yinzers just months before.
There was a reason so few showed up for the last game of the 2012 season. The Bucs seemed to quit showing up weeks earlier.
Now it’s down to this for us. They can stay and we can fight, or they can go. The Pittsburgh Pirates have taken their hits. It’s time they start hitting back. If this Pirates team falters again, pulls another vanishing act, or fails to even show– well, it’s not that hard to envision wholesale changes coming.
It’s fair to say there is little love for the Bucs brass in the clubhouse. It’s hard to imagine Clint Hurdle still having a firm grasp on this club, so winning one for the Gipper is probably out of the question. The 2013 Pirates need to win one for the man in the mirror.
Opening Day for the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates begins with the following lineup against the Chicago Cubs. Below you will see the ZiPS projections for the season, courtesy of Dan Szymborski.
LF Starling Marte (.264/.311/.428)
RF Garrett Jones (.253/.313/.446)
CF Andrew McCutchen (.283/.372/.480)
3B Pedro Alvarez (.236/.315/.451)
1B Gaby Sanchez (.254/.326/.405)
2B Neil Walker (.270/.332/.430)
C Russell Martin (.238/.329/.373)
SS Clint Barmes (.237/.291/.353)
So, there’s the lineup. We aren’t a fan of the bench in the least. Yeah, we read the projections, but come on. Jose Tabata needs to prove something. Travis Snider–come on, hit a ball over the fence once in a while. We foresee Michael McKenry striking out more, getting on base less, heh – wasn’t he a strong defender in the minors–where did that go? John McDonald, a Barmes clone on the bench–oh, just great.
Look, we believe in the core of this team. Marte, McCutchen, Walker, Alvarez and even Martin should allow the offense to improve over their poor 26th-best-in-the-league last season. But the offense just doesn’t appear strong enough without career years and some surprises in the pitching staff and about that Pirates bench–ugh.
It should be enjoyable to see the talent added as the year progresses, but to think good things will happen? Man, we’re done dreaming. We would prefer it to be proven to us.
The 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates Rotation* (for now, maybe, shit get better quick Cole, McPherson, etc..) Below you will see the ZiPS IP and FIP projections for the season (again, courtesy of Dan Szymborski).
A.J. Burnett (172 IP, 3.94 FIP)
Wandy Rodriguez (180, 3.55)
James McDonald (151, 4.10)
Jonathan Sanchez (108, 4.78)
Jeff Locke (150, 4.43)
Francisco Liriano (154, 3.49)
Jeff Karstens (121, 4.01)
Charlie Morton (110, 4.27)
Help is on the way. The only question is just how quickly it will be needed. A.J. and Wandy will do their thing. If it is indeed Burnett’s final season in baseball, it’s hard not seeing him leaving it all on the field. But as was shown last season, Burnett being above average just isn’t enough.
James McDonald. Seriously – WTF, dude? Figure out how to pitch inside, or move over on the damned rubber.
Sanchez is the thrill ride. Locke should only pitch in PNC Park. McPherson and Karstens and Liriano and Morton and Cole can’t get better/healed/healed/healed/ace-like fast enough.
The 2013 Bullpen
Jason Grilli (11.4K/9 and 3.05 FIP)
Mark Melancon (7.99 K/9 and 3.35)
Tony Watson (8.65 K/9 and 3.84)
Chris Leroux (6.49 K/9 and 4.06)
Jared Hughes (5.94 K/9 and 4.06)
Jeanmar Gomez (4.94 K/9 and 4.47)
Justin Wilson (6.84 K/9 and 5.20)
The bullpen seems sketchy. Melancon scares the hell out of us if he should have to face lefites early in the season. Unless Ray Searage works some magic, it’s difficult for us to see Melancon getting handed the ball in the eighth right away (especially with left handers coming up), but be sure to pay attention to that fact. Knowing our luck, Melancon will be one of the best setup men in the game.
So that could potentially put Justin Wilson in a really tough spot. Why Wilson couldn’t see more time on the mound last season is still baffling–but that could be said about any number of players. We expect to see a number of arms in the Buccos bullpen this season including some interesting upside arms in Vin Mazarro, Bryan Morris, Victor Black, and even Stolmy Pimentel in the second half of the year.
WHO IS GOING TO SHOCK US? The bullpen is going to falter early. Where the hell are the southpaws when we need them?
BEST NEW COACH? Rick Sofield will help this team, even if he never did thank me.
WHAT PITCHER GETS ALL-STAR CONSIDERATION? Jeff Locke will be unreal.
Pedro Alvarez HITS TWENTY HOMERS BEFORE THE ALL-STAR BREAK
WHO IS GOING TO BREAK OUR HEART? Andrew McCutchen is going to appear normal for lengthy stretches this season. James McDonald will struggle big time and be the first Pirates pitcher to be dropped from the rotation, leaving fans wondering what the hell happened.
WHO IS GOING TO BREAK OUT? Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez put up numbers that will have us burning Photoshops ’til the wee hours of the morning.
TOP ROOKIE PITCHER? Gerrit Cole strikes out fifteen San Francisco Giants in his PNC Park debut. Cole battles his temperament on the mound the rest of the season, but flashes enough stuff to allow the Bucs to achieve a new attendance record.
TOP ROOKIE POSITION PLAYER? Tony Sanchez replaces Mike McKenry, who gets injured trying to steal a base in a pinch running role in late July. Sanchez immediately becomes a fan favorite when he hits a grand slam off Ardolis Chapman of the Reds a few days after he’s called up.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST SURPRISE IN 2013? The Pirates’ finish. The talent we’ve been hearing about flashes just enough to capture the hearts of the most die hard fans in the game. The 20 years of losing would have been avoided if the team would have been able to get out to a faster start. It’s 21. And it stings.
In the offseason, the team doesn’t make a splash for a much needed starter, but the antique PNC Park scoreboard is sent to McKechnie Field after the idea of auctioning it off is shunned by the Pittsburgh media.
The Bucs produce their version of ’all in’ at the All-Star Break and it works, sparking a wild finish that has many believing the team is playoff bound, but those damned Reds have a different idea.
The Reds sweep the Bucs in Pittsburgh, but the Bucs bounce back, sweeping the Cubs and setting up a thrilling three-game series at Great American Ballpark for the NL Central crown. The Bucs – behind the powerful infield of Jose Reyes, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez (who combined for 60 second half bombs) push the Pirates into the playoffs. Marty Brennaman breaks down in the eighth inning as the Pirates push their lead to 10-0. Brennaman announces his retirement on the air after Jason Grilli, who had beaned three batters to load the bases, comes back to strike out the side.
WHAT’S THE SECOND BIGGEST SURPRISE? That was an April Fools joke, the Pirates aren’t going to the playoffs.