In 2012, the sun was shining everyday for the Pittsburgh Pirates. You saw the videos.
And then, everything fell apart.
Everyone had seen it before. Now, the collapses of the past seem so long ago. As I try to wrap my small brain around what the Bucs have done in 2013, it’s overwhelming.
When things went so poorly last year, DJ Gallo wrote The 20 Most Depressing Facts About the 2012 Pirates. It was a difficult read.
Then last night it hit me, we needed to put all of the ‘team of destiny-esque’ things that are happening for the 2013 Pirates in one place. One poorly written blog post to try and sum it all up. If we missed anything, please let us know.
1. It’s August 1 and The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in Major League Baseball, with Pedro Alvarez leading the National League in home runs.
2. The Pirates were 16 games over .500 at 63-47 as late as Aug. 8 last season. Currently, the Pirates are 23 games over .500, the team is a lock to improve on last season’s ‘high water mark.’ The team is 23-12 in their last 35 games.
3. Coming out of spring training, the Pirates had left-hander Jonathan Sanchez in their rotation. Yeah, how can we forget the guy who tweeted selfie after selfie while giving up 18 earned runs over four starts?
4. The Pirates pitching staff has been unimaginable at times while posting 14 shutouts – which is tied for most in Major League Baseball.
5. Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett and insert starting pitcher name here…the list of successful Pirates starters goes on and on. The Pirates pitching staff have the best ERA in Major League Baseball to go along with the lowest batting average against. Liriano is a Cy Young candidate, despite missing a chunk of the season.
6. During the team’s strong past two seasons, James McDonald made 60 starts. JMac was a big contributor to the team’s success. In 2013, McDonald made six starts and vanished. We would put the picture of the Nationals scoreboard from last season when he was firing a no-hitter through six, but you might not believe it.
7. Before the season, one of the team’s young gun starters, Kyle McPherson, was pegged by several blogs to make an impact for the Bucs pitching staff in 2013. McFear hasn’t thrown an inning in the big leagues this year, and is working his way back from surgery.
8. Wandy Rodriguez, the biggest trade deadline acquisition since forever for the Bucs last season, hasn’t made a start since… ahh, I’m not even looking it up. The team has overcome that, too.
9. The team lost it’s back-up catcher and spiritual leader Mike McKenry for the season. First-round pick Tony Sanchez replaced him and in his first start at PNC Park, Sanchez called a shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals.
10. “It’s Mercer Time!” has become a battle cry as yet another Pirates drafted-and-developed player has arrived in the bigs. Mercer immediately became a contributor. Just when the team needed him most.
11. Russell Martin has thrown out more guys than a bouncer at Chauncy’s in the 80′s. Last year, the Buccos catchers threw out just 19 of 173 attempted base stealers all season. Martin leads the Majors with 20.
12. Clint Barmes, left for dead when Mercer burst on the scene, has come alive and is hitting over .300 in his past 17 games.
13. Andrew McCutchen continues to play great baseball, with six homers among his 32 hits in July. Neil Walker is starting to heat up just in time for the stretch run. The team stood pat at the trade deadline with the thought being that more production should be coming from Walker, Cutch, Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez.
14. HELP WANTED. The ability to play right field a plus.
15. A.J. Burnett has barked and battled through another strong season. He missed a month of it, as well. No worries, the pitching staff picked up the slack just like it did when Jeff Karstens went on the DL in March, McDonald in May, Wandy, Jared Hughes and Phil Irwin in June, and finally Jason Grilli in July. “Next man up” isn’t just a saying in Pittsburgh, it’s a way of life.
16. Starling Marte has stolen 30 bases. But he also has 21 doubles, nine triples and 10 home runs. So when he hits his next triple, he will be the first Bucco since 2004 to have 10 doubles, ten triples and ten homers in the same season.
17. Brandon. Cumpton. The Bucs 9th round draft pick earned his first Major League win by throwing seven scoreless against the Cardinals on July 30. Cumpton was sent back to AAA Indianapolis the next day.
18. The Bucs are 39-26 in games decided by two runs or less this season.
19. After trading closer Joel Hanrahan in the offseason, the Bucs bullpen was a question mark coming into 2013. It’s become an exclamation point. Mark Melancon and The Shark Tank simply don’t give up runs when it counts, as they chase down the Atlanta Braves bullpen for best ERA in the NL. Even after the team lost closer Jason Grilli, the relievers have continued to dominate late innings.
20. A buddy of mine bought a 20-game Pirates ticket plan yesterday so that he can have the ability to….wait for it…get Pittsburgh Pirates playoff tickets.
21. Back on April 17, the Pirates and Cardinals played before 9,570 fans in Pittsburgh. The number at PNC Park is going to be a little bit more than that tonight when the Bucs go for the five-game sweep and a chance to be 3.5 games up in the NL Central standings….
P.S. Oh yeah, that Gerrit Cole guy is pretty good, too.