The only place the Pittsburgh Pirates can go is up if you think about it. 57-105 was the Pirates record last season which was the worst in Major League Baseball. How could they not improve on that this season?
Clint Hurdle is taking over for John Russell as Pirates manager. People say that a team will reflect the personality of the coach and that is what happened during the Russell era. He is so bland and vanilla and that was the face of the franchise. It wasn’t the right fit for a youthful team such as the Pirates. Hurdle brings experience and fundamentals to a team that is in much need of that.
Hurdle might not be the greatest coach of all time, but remember, this is the Pirates. I believe he will get much more with less than Russell did.
With a young core of talented players such as Pedro Alvarez, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker, the future may seem brighter than some experts believe. If the team bows out early in June (or before) like usual, at least we can focus on these four players and some players in the minor leagues.
Pitching wins games and the Pirates won’t win a lot of games if the pitching is as atrocious as last year. Paul Maholm needs to prove that he was deserving of his first round pick in 2003. He has shown glimpses of brilliance by being able to switch pitches, but if he has another discouraging year he could end up like Zach Duke.
Charlie Morton will be under some scrutiny to start of the 2011 campaign. He appears to be on track for the fifth spot in the rotation. If he starts out like he did last season expect him to have a shorter lease.
The other three starters will be Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Ross Ohlendorf. People already believe that McDonald can be a great pitcher in the MLB. All I say to that is relax for a second. He only had a handful of starts with the Pirates last season. Although, he was good in most starts, that doesn’t mean he is going to be an All-Star. Wait and see what happens this season before you acclaim that to his name.
The bullpen will need to see Evan Meek and Joel Hanrahan settle into a role that they are comfortable with.
The starting lineup will be as follows:
LF – Jose Tabata
CF – Andrew McCutchen
RF – Platoon between Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz
1B – Lyle Overbay
2B – Neil walker
SS – Ronny Cedeno
3B – Pedro Alvarez
C – Chris Snyder
The obvious holes are at catcher and shortstop. The problem at catcher is that former first round pick Tony Sanchez was set back last year with a broken jaw. The Pirates hope to call him up late in the season if he does well.
I don’t believe that the Pirates are a .500 team. I also don’t believe that they will shoot up to that mark after a horrible season. I DO believe that if the Pirates are going to be a .500 type of ball club, they need to show some people that they can win 75-80 games this season. If they win 75-80 games then I may believe that they could be .500 the following season.
Be encouraged Pirates fans, but know that a 19th consecutive losing season is on the way.
Pittsburgh Pirates Record in 2011: 69-93
About the Author
Written by Justin Welton
Born in Franklin, PA. Life-long Pittsburgh sports fan + Boston Celtics. Attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Working for WCUC - 91.7 and WCUB-TV. Clarion Call writer for two years.