Harrison Leipold – Pirates Prediction Blog

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The sports scene has been the same for Pittsburgh Sports fans for a number of years.  The Steelers and Penguins make deep runs into the playoffs and bring home championships while the Pirates sponsor great promotional nights.  The Pittsburgh Pirates have not had a winning season in 18 long years, but they finally seem to have put together the makings of a half decent team.  After upping their payroll from $35 million to $46 million in the offseason and hiring a manger with World Series experience in Clint Hurdle, the team is certainly better-suited than last year’s team that went 57-105. 

The Bucs finally have a solid core of quality hitters atop their lineup with Jose Tabata, Neil Walker, and Andrew McCutchen.  With these speedsters getting on base and setting up off-season acquisition Lyle Overbay in the cleanup spot and young power star Pedro Alvarez in the five spot, the Pirates are bound to score a decent amount of runs this year.  With the lineup being rounded out by veteran Ryan Doumit, last season’s power star Garret Jones, and Ronny Cedeno in the eight spot we should certainly see a vast improvement in offensive production.  So far this season, with the Bucs 4-2 after five games, the top of the lineup has not disappointed.  Jose Tabata is batting .389, Neil Walker is batting .333 and leading the league in RBIs with eight and Andrew McCutchen is batting .357 and is tied for second in the league with two home runs.  If they keep this up, the Pirates hot start could continue throughout much of the season.

As improved as the offense may be, no MLB team can be successful without quality pitching and no one was worse than the Pirates in that department last year.  After firing pitching coach Joe Kerrigan in the offseason and bringing in Ray Searage, the starters have made a complete turnaround so far in this young season.  After getting through the cycle for the first time after five games, starters Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald were all able to provide quality starts, something rarely done last year.  The bullpen has been strong as well with Joel Hanrahan easily finishing off games as the new closer.  The only major concern has been set-up man Evan Meek who has been shelled in both of his first two outings, one of which cost the Bucs a win against the Cubs.  Considering the fact that he was last year’s lone Pirate in the All-Star game, their probably shouldn’t be too much concern over his slow start after how well he performed in the past.

With the Pirates off to such a good start many fans are starting to get excited again, and while there is good reason for optimism, fans also need to stay level-headed.  The truth is that with such a solid group of core young players the Bucs will become playoff contenders in the next five years if they are able to keep them all together.  That being said, while their will be lots of improvement this season, the pitching probably can’t stay consistently good enough throughout the year to get to .500 quite yet.  My prediction for this season is the Pirates will improve to 77-85.