National League Central Previews: Pirates

Today’s Focus: Pittsburgh Pirates

2010 Record 57-105, 6th Place NL Central

Baseball season in Pittsburgh,  that painful time that fills the void between the end of the Penguins post season run and the start of Steelers training camp. Coming off their record setting 18th consecutive losing season, the Pirates are likely extend their streak to 19 this year.  However, things are starting to look up a little bit in Pittsburgh these days.  Last season saw the call up of 3 of the organization’s top prospects, Pedro Alvarez,  Neil Walker, and Jose Tabata, to join Andrew McCutchen, who played his first full season in the big leagues.  All four players were productive last year and should continue to improve this year, especially McCutchen and Alvarez.  The Pirate’s ownership still refuses to spend money on big name (or even medium name, for that matter) free agents in the off season.  This winter they signed Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz, who will platoon in right field with Garret Jones.

There’s been much talk this offseason about how the Phillies have assembled the greatest pitching staff in the history of baseball.  It easily be argued that the Pirates have one of the worst rotations ever.  The team’s “ace” is Paul Maholm, who was 9-15 with a 5.04 ERA last season.  Since the Pirates couldn’t land Cliff Lee, they had to settle for Kevin Correia, who had a 5.40 ERA last year with San Diego.  The rest of the rotation is equally dreadful and the team lacks an experienced closer.

Not so notable Losses: Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche
Not so notable Pickups:  Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, Kevin Correia

The Pirates biggest signing this offseason was manger Clint Hurdle, easily the best manger this team has seen since the halcyon days of Jim Leyland in the 90’s. His presence along with the continued development of the their young bats should see some improvements in the Pirates play this season, but pitching is still going to be a huge liability for this team.   The good news; the Pirates probably won’t lose 100 games again this season.  The bad news; they’re probably going to lose 90 games and finish at the bottom of the division again.

Prediction: 66-96, 6th Place NL Central

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