Pittsburgh Pirates Will Live And Die On Starting Rotation, Do You Trust It?
By Tom Smith
The Pirates front brass is confident in their starting rotation. So confident that Bucs skipper Clint Hurdle said this:
"“We like our three guys a lot.”"
Uh, what? What about the depth that the Pirates are assembling in the back of the rotation?
The list of the five Pirates starters who will open the season isn’t complete, perhaps that’s why Hurdle doesn’t like them….’a lot.”
The pitcher we feel will be the fourth starter, Jeff Karstens, has yet to make a start this spring. Karstens is scheduled to make his first start next week. Roughly seven days before Opening Day.
Kyle McPherson, who starts tomorrow, and Jeff Locke have been in competition for the fifth starter’s spot. But each of them have had their ups and downs this spring.
Apparently Hurdle doesn’t like the guys at the back of the rotation “a lot.”
Feeling confident in the top three starters is important. When the Pirates have been successful the past two years, it’s been because of pitchers like Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton, A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, and James McDonald. Joel Hanrahan and a contingent of bullpen arms were also a crucial element in shortening many of those games when the Bucs were on a roll.
The pitching was borderline dominant at different intervals, but could never harness their success for more than a few months at a time. The pitching carried the Pirates to that oft-cited 16 games over .500 last season, but down the stretch in 2013 it faltered. Before the All-Star break in 2013 the Bucs were giving up about three and a half runs a game. In the months when the pitchers needed to peak, they ran out of gas.
So, for us, it boils down to trust.
The top three starters need to be borderline dominant, because – looking at last season – the offense takes a while to gain steam. Especially when the offense will be matching up in the first ten series with the likes of the Cubs, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Reds, Cardinals a couple of times, Braves Phillies, the hated Brew Crew and the pitching-heavy Washington Nationals.
It’s pretty obvious: the Bucs rotation is the key to 2013. It’s probably why reinforcements are working hard to prepare should one of the top five falter. The strategy is a wise one by the Bucs brass; should any of Burnett, Rodriguez, McDonald, Karstens, McPherson, or Locke struggle the team will at the least have options.
Even if backup plan A is Francisco Liriano and backup plan B, Charlie Morton, is coming off Tommy John. Plan C is Gerrit Cole which a great deal of people are very excited about.
It takes a lot for the fans of the Pirates to trust a team with so many question marks, but all in all, the roster is shaping up to be the best compiled in quite some time.
Let’s trust it’s enough.