The Pittsburgh Pirates season starts on Monday, Gerrit Cole will take the ball against 2016 American League CY Young winner Rick Porcello. It will be the first game of actual importance, with the last coming 183 days before (from opening day) when the Pirates fell 10-4 to the St. Louis Cardinals. The season is starting, so it’s time for the Rum Bunter staff to make their predictions for 2017.
The 2016 season started off well. The Pittsburgh Pirates won their first four games, a Jordy Mercer walk off in game two and a Starling Marte grand slam in the top of the eighth down three in game four helped that start. But after dropping to the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 on April 10, the Pirates never reached first place again. Until May 1, the Pirates were one to four games behind the Cubs, and on May 1 they were only three back, but they never got closer. A 29-22 start was erased after a 9-19 June, and the season was a battle after that.
The Pirates pitching staff, a strength of the team for many years, imploded. Francisco Liriano produced a 136 ERA- and 131 FIP-, both adjusted for park and league, for the Pirates in 21 starts, and he walked 13.2 percent of the hitters he saw, he was traded for Drew Hutchison. Jon Niese, acquired for Neil Walker, had a 122 ERA- and 133 FIP-, he was sent to the bullpen before being dealt for Antonio Bastardo. Jeff Locke posted a 135 ERA- and 120 FIP-, he was later moved to the bullpen. After a great spring, Juan Nicasio posted a 145 ERA- and 122 FIP- in his first 12 starts with a relief appearance sprinkled in. Nicasio was moved to the bullpen, but he found success like he did in 2015 with Los Angeles.
Struggles at the Plate
Between June and July, John Jaso posted a wRC+ of 60 and Andrew McCutchen was hardly any better with a mark of 69. Gregory Polanco started the season off hot, but in the second half posted a wRC+ of 80. Jung Ho Kang, who started off the season injured, featured a 54-day stretch starting in June of an 87 wRC+, he was again placed on the disabled list.
The team started off strong and then faltered. But it is a new season, and that brings new hope. Here are my predictions, co-editors Marty and Nick will follow in the coming days with their predictions, for the 2017 Pirates.