To say that the Pittsburgh Pirates have not had the start to the season that anyone affiliated with the team wanted to see would be an obvious understatement.
They’re sitting at 19-26 with just over two thirds of the season left. But really if you look at the overall scheme of things, it could be much, much, worse.
They are only 7 games under .500 after having blown a major league leading 11 saves, they are 5th worst in the league in starter ERA, 5th worst in the majors in Quality starts, and let’s not forget that the Pirates are dead last in wins by starting pitchers (5). Yes, they have 5 wins by a starter in 45 chances. I can’t make that up.
Despite that absolute inadequacy displayed by the rotation, we are still a stone’s throw from .500. And in a weird, morbid, pathetic kind of way… I actually feel good about that.
So listen up and I’ll explain to you why it’s not worth throwing the towel in just yet.
First and foremost, Wandy Rodriguez is out of the lineup for good. No offense to Wandy. He’s had a stellar career and pitched his heart out, but for one reason or another he couldn’t make his way back from the injury he suffered last year.
So that clears the way for Brandon “straight outta” Cumpton who absolutely, without-a-doubt, should have had a spot in the rotation over a month ago. He’s earned that opportunity many times over.
Cumpton has a 2.70 ERA in 43 Major League innings over the last two years and he will provide much needed stability every 5th game. Those win totals will increase, believe me.
I suspect Edinson Volquez will be the next domino to fall in favor of Jeff Locke. I hope that Volquez can pitch well enough to prolong that for at least a few months to save Locke’s arm from fatigue, but if not, Locke will step right in and the rotation will instantly improve. Just like that.
Granted, Locke’s first start of the year wasn’t an ideal performance, but for those of you who watched the game, he was cruising through the first 5 innings before he gave up 5 runs in the 6th. He looked great out there. Let’s not forget he was an All-star last year and in time, he will get into a groove again.
Not only will these two help on paper, but the chemistry in the dugout will immediately improve with the addition of Cumpton and Locke and the subtraction of Volquez and Wandy. These are two guys who will bring energy, enthusiasm, and eagerness with them and their presence alone will help to improve the overall climate.
Not only that, but Russel Martin will be back in the fold in June and the much anticipated debut of Gregory Polanco will follow soon after that!
If Jason Grilli can somehow manage to get back to form, we will have plenty of cannonballs left to re-load with and make a run at the playoffs.
Neal Huntington will have to do his part by redeeming his horrendous offseason and going out and finding another arm or two for the AAA rotation. He can try to do this by making a deal for Snider, Tabata, Jennmar Gomez, Stolmy Pimental, Vin Mazzaro and/or a few tier 2 prospects to effectively refresh our AAA rotation and give us a few more options if needed down the stretch. That will at least provide a contingency plan should one of our starters need some time on the DL and you better belive NH is scouring the land for a good fit.
With all of above considered, there is one more reason I still have faith this season is not over and that is the fact that we play in the NL Central..
The NL Central may be the most competitive divisions in all of baseball and it’s going to be extremely difficult for any one team to build a substantial lead and run away with it. There are 5 extremely talented teams in this grouping that will be trading haymakers the entire second half of the season. Yes, even the Cubs.
It is quite possible that NO ONE in the NL Central makes it to 90 wins this year which gives the Pirates an even BETTER chance at resurrecting the season. Just do me a favor Pirates…. ramp up Zoltan and bury the YES YES YES conga line. Zoltan remains this generation’s “we are family”. Don’t fight it friends. Embrace it.
.600 ball for the rest of the year can get us into the playoffs. With all of the players we have joining or re-joining the team over the next month, I say there is more to this season than Mark Madden and the rest of the “so-called” experts will lead you to believe.
Just when it happens, don’t say I didn’t tell you so.
For real Pirate insight follow me on Twitter @TheBigTuna66