After seeing the Pirates take the Phillies to the 12th inning last night and get the W 2-1, it reminded me that I'd been meaning to post this. So here goes...
I know I've said it before (and have gotten laughed at for it), but I seriously feel that we're seeing the beginnings of a changing of the guard for the Central. For years it was the Reds & Pirates battling it out for the cellar. Well, we all saw what the Reds did last year and that they have the looks to being in it for the long haul. But at what point do we need to take the Pirates seriously?
They've gotten some serious pitching this year. A fact that's surprised me to say the least.
Charlie Morton against us this year is 2-0 with 2 complete games and 1 run allowed. Against the league, he's 5-2 with a 2.51 era (4th in the NL). Fans in the game threads were routinely mocking the pirates and blasting the reds for not making minced meat out of these Pirates. A few examples...
Next is Paul Maholm. Maholm is the definition of snakebit this season. He's 2-7 with a 3.66 era (25th in NL). He's gotten the lowest run support of any pitcher in the bigs this season. I had started to post this thread a few days ago and got sidetracked. That slight delay has altered Maholm's numbers pretty drastically. He was at 3.18 prior to his last game (5ip / 6 runs) and the Bucs actually scored some runs that game too. He was leading the bigs in smallest run support by nearly a full run per game. Simply put, he's pitched MUCH better than his 2-7 record indicates.
Jeff Karstens is their #4. I gotta say, he's a pretty solid #4 right now. 3-4 with a 3.30 era (15th in NL). 42 k's, 11 bb's. I'd take that any day out of my rotation's #4 guy. Karstens was the starter last night against Philly btw. 7 ip, 1 run, 0 bb. Then the pen slammed the door the rest of the way.
Rounding out their rotation is James McDonald. His first 3 games of the season were flat out atrocious (0-2 with a 10.13 era). But since then...3-1 with an era around 2.50.
That's a VERY solid rotation IMO. Add to that their bullpen with Daniel McCutchen (25 ip / 1.40 era), Joel Hanrahan (25 ip / 1.40 era / 14 saves), and a steadily improving Evan Meek (12 ip / 3.75 era....4 of his 5 earned runs this season came in the first 3 games of the season...nails since). From where I stand, pitching looks to be a huge positive for this club.
Now let's look at the hitting. Heading into this season, I really thought the offense would be the strong point for the Pirates. They had a solid young core who produced very well last season and in the minors.
Andrew McCutchen (12 hr & .286 in '09 / 16 hr & .286 in '10)
Neil Walker (12 hr's & .296 average in '10)
Jose Tabata (.299 average in '10)
Garrett Jones (21 hr's in both '09 & '10, .290 average in '09)
Pedro Alvarez (16 hr in under 400 ab's, .260 average)
That to me looks to be a VERY solid core of offensive talent. Unfortunately, they've stuggled rather mightily this season.
McCutchen 9 hr's, .263 average
Walker 7 hr's, .269 average
Tabata 3 hr's, .240 average
Jones 6 hr's, .228 average
Alvarez 2 hr's, .208 average
I picked them to finish either 3rd or 4th in the division prior to the season depending upon how poorly the Cards played & how injuries effected them. When their offense starts to come around...these Pirates may very well be a team to look out for. I know many here will laugh. But I personally think that this laughter will be coming because these are the Pirates and many fans here are stuck with the idea in their heads that the Pirates are bad...because they're the Pirates. This is NOT the Pittsburgh team we've seen in the past. Again, at what point do we need to take them more seriously?