Pittsburgh Pirates quarter pole awards

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May 27, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Starling Marte (6) reacts as he exits the field after the Pirates defeated the Miami Marlins at PNC Park. The Pirates won 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As of Thursday morning, the Pittsburgh Pirates have played 46 games, and more than a quarter of the season has gone by. At this point, the excuse “it’s too early” won’t have much merit anymore. A substantial piece of the schedule is gone, and the Pirates currently find themselves six-and-a-half games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the division and two games behind the New York Mets for the second Wild Card spot. These standings will begin to hold more significance as the season gets deeper into the summer, but the Pirates have put themselves in a good position in the early-going thanks to the current six-game winning streak the team has seen.

Some trends have emerged in the first part of this long season. The team as a whole currently ranks ninth in the National League in runs scored with 184, ninth in batting average at .249, 11th in on-base percentage at .307, ninth in slugging percentage at .383, and ninth in OPS at .689. That’s a middle-of-the-road offense. On the pitching side, however, the stats tell a different story. The team ranks second in the NL in ERA at 3.04, tied for second in the NL in quality starts with 28, fifth in strikeouts with 379, and fourth in batting average against at .245. That’s a very good pitching staff, thanks in large part to the three guys at the top of the rotation.

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Some notable offensive contributors have been Starling Marte over the course of the entire season, Josh Harrison and Andrew McCutchen as of late, and Jung Ho Kang off the bench. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, and Francisco Liriano make up a formidable top three at the top of the rotation, while Tony Watson continues to shine in his late-inning role.

However, Jordy Mercer continues to struggle out of the gate and Corey Hart hasn’t been great off the bench. Mark Melancon had a horrid start to the year while the fifth starter battle between Jeff Locke and Vance Worley has been hard to watch.

So, who has been the Most Valuable Player this season for the Pirates? Who would take home the team Cy Young? How about the Least Valuable Player and the Cy Yuck? We’ll evaluate these big four in the slides ahead (Jung Ho Kang has no contest for the Rookie of the Year award, so let’s just say he’s locked that down). Let’s start with the Cy Young: the best pitcher this team has seen so far this season, and one that might be the best in all of baseball as this is being written.

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