Why it’s way too early to give up on the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates

While it's okay and 100% understandable to be frustrated, it would be way too early to give up on the 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates.
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates
St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to an 11-7 start to the 2024 season and are tied for first place in the National League Central at the time of writing this. But based on the way some people are reacting, you’d think they got off to a start like the Miami Marlins did with nothing positive moving forward in the season. The Pirates have lost their first series of the year, and while the games were winnable, it happens. But to give up on this team now would be a way too premature action.

Just take a look around the league. The Texas Rangers are at .500 and the Oakland Athletics are ahead of the Houston Astros. Kutter Crawford, Ronel Blanco, and Paul Blackburn have ERA’s below 1.00. Meanwhile, Julio Rodriguez has a 41 wRC+ and a negative fWAR, and George Kirby and Jesus Luzardo have ERA’s above 6.00. There are still a lot of weird things happening in week three of the season.

Second, the Pirates definitely still have potential. The rotation has been great, and it’s possible it hasn’t even reached its full potential. Since Martin Perez’s start on April 4th, Pirates’ starters have gone at least five innings while allowing three or fewer earned runs. Jared Jones has looked like the second coming of Greg Maddux but with a 97-100 MPH fastball. He’s now gone three straight starts without allowing a walk. Perez, Bailey Falter, and Marco Gonzales (prior to his IL placement) have looked excellent thus far. Before you know it, Paul Skenes is going to be in the big leagues shoving and they’ll get another major mid-season reinforcement in Mike Burrows.

The Pirates’ bullpen has been shaky so far, but it’s still essentially the same bullpen as they had in the second half of last year, which had the third most fWAR in baseball during that stretch. The only difference is they don’t have Dauri Moreta, but Hunter Stratton has seemed to fill his role well. Ryan Borcuki will return soon, and so will Carmen Mlodzinski, adding two more reliable bullpen pieces to the team.

The offense has struggled, but many of their players typically start seasons slow. Hopefully, after getting his 300th home run out of the way, Andrew McCutchen can put that in the back of his mind and start hitting better. Oneil Cruz is 100% better than this. So is Henry Davis. They’re not busted prospects because they haven’t been good in less than 20 games in their sophomore season and Cutch isn’t washed for the same reasons.

Let’s also turn back the clock a decade ago to 2014 when the Pirates made the Postseason for a second straight year. They did not get off to a good start. They fell below .500 on April 18th and didn’t get back above .500 until June 24th, just over two months. At the end of April, they were 10-16 with an offense that had a .221/.296/.351 triple-slash and 85 wRC+. The pitching staff also ran into some bumps in the road. They had a 3.65 ERA, but a 4.25 FIP and 1.26 WHIP. The all-star shutdown closer from a year ago, Jason Grilli allowed nearly as many earned runs in the first month of the season with four than he did in all of the first half of the previous season with nine (sound a little familiar?) Of the Pirates’ five starters, only one had both an ERA and FIP below 4.00. At that point, some people were considering the 2013 Pirates a fluke.

I'm not going to sit here and tell Pirates fans that they shouldn't feel frustrated or upset.

Not only would that be rude and undermine how fans feel, but it's totally understandable why fans feel the way they do with the losses. All but one of their losses was three runs or less. They’ve now blown six leads in the sixth inning or later, and have some of the most called strikeouts among all 30 teams. Fans are also afraid of the sudden fall-off like they had in May and June of last year. I’m not saying that this isn’t something to be upset over. I’m passionate about the Pirates too and have yelled at the top of my lungs at my TV more times than I can count so far this year, both for good and bad reasons. 

But it’s a long season. Let’s see how the 2024 Pirates deal with their first bout of adversity of the year.  I will end it off with hang in there Pirates fans, it’s going to get better before it gets worse!