The Pittsburgh Pirates entered 2016 with high expectations after three straight playoff appearances, but ended up severely disappointing with a 78-83 record, finishing 3rd in the NL Central. It was a season filled with lackluster play and unmet potential.
The Pirates were counting on center fielder Andrew McCutchen to lead the way offensively. While he didn't win the MVP award in 2015, McCutchen did make his 5th straight All-Star appearance after finishing 5th in MVP voting the previous season. His stellar track record raised hopes for another big year, but McCutchen struggled in 2016, hitting just .256 with 24 home runs as the Pirates lacked offensive firepower.
The pitching staff also failed to live up to expectations. Big offseason acquisition Jon Niese was a bust, and veteran Ryan Vogelsong pitched even worse before injuries ended his year. But Francisco Liriano's decline was the most disappointing. Liriano had been the Pirates' ace for three seasons but unraveled in 2016, going 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA.
The Pittsburgh front office tried to shake up the underperforming roster midseason by making several trades.
Francisco Liriano was dumped on Toronto, while Ivan Nova, Sean Rodriguez and Felipe Rivero came over to provide pitching and infield depth. But the roster reshaping couldn't spark a playoff push, as the Pirates still finished 9 games back for the Wild Card spot.
Some positives emerged like Starling Marte's breakout year and Ivan Nova steadying the rotation after a mid-season trade. But it wasn't nearly enough to lift the Pirates, who sank early and finished a distant 3rd place in the NL Central at 78-83.
So while hopes were justifiably high after three straight playoff berths, the Pirates had an enormously disappointing 2016 as both their lineup and pitching staff failed to deliver. With McCutchen struggling and Liriano bottoming out, Pittsburgh took a clear step backward and headed into 2017 needing to regain their contending form.