Thirty-one wins. Thirty-one Pittsburgh Pirates victories. The ‘Raise The Jolly Roger!’ battle cry has been shouted thirty-one times already in 2013.
We didn’t see this coming… Did you?
Prior to the season Clint Hurdle went on The Fan and indirectly threw out 95 wins as a target that would put the Bucs ‘in a good place.’
What Hurdle did in the interview was add up the areas in which the Bucs could improve. The Pirates skipper pointed toward some serious improvement leading to the jump in wins. Hurdle was on a serious roll, and cited discipline in the box adding three wins, being better in the running game adding three wins, controlling the opponent’s running game adding three wins, and something else that wasn’t quite defined – and then he proclaimed…
“….we’re at 15 wins right there, men.” Hurdle
Kevin McClatchy called for 92 wins a few years back, and it’s still at least vaguely memorable to fans. Hurdle raised him three wins! Hurdle even did it knowing the roster has numerous question marks.
Guess what? Hurdle’s math looks a little off. What a pessimist!
But seriously, Hurdle talked about what needed to be done, and the the players are doing it. The team is more disciplined. The running game is much better. Controlling the running game is much improved.
The first base platoon of Gaby Sanchez and Garret Jones is working.
Neil Walker has been hurt and has struggled, but the Bucs have won without their hometown hero’s offensive help.
Pedro Alvarez has ten home runs since April 18 which is the most in the NL and fourth most in the big leagues.
Starling Marte has been the most consistent offensive producer. From his leadoff spot, Marte has reached base consistently, and has ranked in the top of several offensive categories – including hits – numerous times. The Marte Partay has also played well defensively.
Andrew McCutchen is picking up the pace after the worst start to his Major League career. Cutch is 17 for 39 (.436) over his last nine games.
Russell Martin has been the Anti-Barajas behind the dish, throwing out 41% of would-be base thieves, while providing some timely pop with the bat. And – by the way – he has struck out only 13 times so far this season, lowest among the regular starters.
But the pitching – oh, good Lord, the pitching has been downright stellar.
A.J. Burnett is putting up career-best strikeout numbers while continuing to get little run production from the middle-of-the-pack Pirates offense.
In the month of May, Jeff Locke is a candidate for National League Pitcher of the Month.
Wandy Rodriguez has pitched effectively enough to rack up six wins.
The starting rotation which, remember, included Sanchez at one point, now is second in MLB in ERA. The rotation now includes Francisco Liriano , who is pitching better than he ever has. The pitching staff has the seventh most strikeouts in the bigs and second least earned runs allowed – including seven shutouts. The 2012 Buccos didn’t get their 7th shutout until August 25th, and only had TEN for the whole season!
The bullpen has continued to shine, highlighted by a perfect 20-for-20 Jason Grilli. The setup work of Mark Melancon has fans in Boston wondering what in the hell happened last year. Left-hander Justin Wilson has consistently picked up the starters.
Vin Mazzaro, who we questioned shouldn’t have a shot in hell to help the 2013 Pirates, has been outstanding.
The big stat for us is the fact that the Pirates pitchers have allowed the least hits in Major League Baseball. Think about that for a minute. Relish the thought.
It’s nearly June, and Gerrit Cole probably hasn’t done enough to earn a shot to the big leagues with 4.3 walks per nine and 39 strikeouts in 54 innings. Many thought Cole would be the missing link, but guess what? There isn’t room in this rotation for Cole right now. There isn’t a spot in the bullpen for Cole right now.
The big right-hander can continue to work in Triple-A until he gets it right.
Because this Buccos ballclub is finding ways to win behind excellent pitching efforts.
31 times in their first 50 games.