In 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates wrapped up the first month of the season at 15-12 and went on to finish 94-68.
In 2014, the Pittsburgh Pirates wrapped up the first month of the season at 10-16 and went on to finish 88-74.
See what I did there?
For 2015, the Pirates are off to an 8-8 start, and have looked pedestrian at times while looking like true contenders at others. For the less sane of us, this first two weeks of the season is cause for alarm. For the ones who settle in for a 162-game season, an 8-8 start is almost welcomed. Please don’t misunderstand me. I, like everyone, wanted a better start to this year. The Bucco Hype Train was in full effect all winter and all spring, and the team’s flat performance in the first series left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m sure it did for you as well. But looking a bit deeper, I can almost talk myself into being happy with the 8-8 record at this point.
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For one, the bats have not woken up yet. In the magical 2013 run, the Pirates scored 110 runs in the month of April on their way to that 15-12 record. During that first month of the season, the Bucs slashed .242/.312,/.390. Contrast that to the initial stage of the 2014 season, wherein the club slashed .221/.296/.351 to account for 96 runs scored. This year’s version of the team is slashing .225/.279/.370. We can look at these numbers in a few different ways, but no matter how you slice it, the bats just aren’t fully awake just yet. Lineup stalwarts Andrew McCutchen, Starling Mare, Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer in particular are off to bumpy starts. Imagine what will happen when their bats catch up to Franciso Cervelli and Gregory Polanco.
Second, the Pirates are blowing early saves again. After blowing six saves in April 2014, the team has already blown three this year. Considering that the club lost the NL Central by only two games in 2014, giving away these games early in the year is absolutely alarming. Clint Hurdle has shown Mark Melancon a debatable vote of confidence, and others in the bullpen have been shaky at times. This must absolutely improve if the Pirates are to actually compete for the division in 2015. It will be interesting to see how long Hurdle stays loyal to Melancon. It was Hurdle’s loyalty to Jason Grilli in the opening stages of 2014 that forced the Pirates to play catchup for most of that season.
It will be interesting to see if these Pittsburgh Pirates resemble the 2013 version (36-18 in May/June) or the 2014 incarnation (32-24 in the same span).
When you factor in the slow-starting offense, and the shaky bullpen, Pirates fans should be thrilled that the team is 8-8 at this juncture.