Diary of a long-suffering Pirates Fan: If you cannot believe in your team during Spring, when can you?

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PART THREE:  Relief pitching will be good and the division stinks

Last year the relief pitching was good.  The key players from the bullpen last year are all coming back.  Plus the Pirates have added Aroldis Chapman.  I don’t need to expand on this here.  If the Pirates can take leads into the 7th inning and beyond, the bullpen should be able to preserve those leads.  On paper this looks to be the strength of the Pirates team.

The path to the World Series typically begins with a path to the division crown.  And in years past, when envisioning scenarios that have the Pirates winning the division, one hopes for a down year for the rest of the division such that the Pirates are able to somehow sneak through. The Pirates have never won the National League Central.  While the Pirates' futility through the years is to blame for that, so too is the fact that in any given year one of the Cubs, Brewers, Reds or Cardinals typically has a strong season.  There have been a few years when the entire division is experiencing a so-called down year. 

But this year the entire baseball world is predicting that the NL Central is ripe for the picking. The so-called experts say there are no strong teams in the division. It’s anyone’s (except the Pirates it seems) division to win. I do not share that view.  I believe the Cubs and the Reds will be much improved.  Which will make the road to the Division championship much harder.

On Paper the Pirates arguably have the best bullpen.  The Reds have the best-starting pitching.  And the Cubs are the best hitters.  How it plays out, we will have to see.  But just a hunch here.  The Cub's pitching is going to falter as the season wears on; while the Pirates' pitching is just going to get stronger.  The Reds pitching last year faltered down the stretch.  As did their hitters.  The Reds are said to have a deep prospect pool too.  The division, in my opinion, is going to come down to whose mid-season replacements will be better.  In years past that ain’t been the Pirates.  But this year it will be. 

With increased run production from the starting 9 and an infusion of pitching talent from the minors, the Pirates are poised to win the NL Central for the first time in history.  And from there, they will surprise everyone in the playoffs and make it to the World Series for the first time since 1979.  It is going to be a historic season.

You heard it here first.