Archive for June, 2012

From Hapless to Happening – the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates

| June 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

Remember not too long ago when every article on the Buccos seemed to refer to the squad as the ‘hapless Pirates’?  Well, now that we officially have some haps, Pittsburgh is starting to become much more ‘hap’pening.  With tonights 9-1 drubbing over the, dare I say, ‘hapless Minnesota Twins’, the Pirates are back to within two games of the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.  They are also one game behind the Giants and Mets in the race for the two National League Wild Card spots right now as well, with the Braves wedged in between a half game ahead of the ‘Happening Pirates’.

Yep, it’s only the first day of summer, but this team is built to last.  Even despite losing last year’s ace, Charlie Morton, to season ending Tommy John surgery, the pitching of this team has been outstanding.  Starters are terrific, bullpen has been solid… even AAA Indianapolis has one of the best pitching staffs in the league.  Although Brad Lincoln has struggled in his starting role, he was outstanding in the bullpen this year (and probably better suited for that role long term).   If needed, this team could easily call up guys from Indy like Rudy Owens (now at 6-2), Justin Wilson (73 K’s in 74 IP), Jeff Locke (72 K’s in 77 IP) and even Rick VandenHurk (5-0, 1.86 ERA) from a team that is 15 games over .500 and in 1st place by 9.5 games.

The Pirates 9 run outburst tonight launched them past the San Diego Padres to no longer be the lowest scoring team in the Majors.

So while the system seems to have pitching depth, the offense is what will make or break this 2012 version of the Bucs.  And the offense has been coming around and showing signs of life lately.  Casey McGehee is forcing himself into the lineup every night with a 9 game hitting streak now, and hitting .356 in June.  Pedro Alvarez is currently on a good streak that hopefully will last for a while.  Garrett Jones is hitting very well also.  Cutch is Cutch.  And the Pirates have been getting contributions from others as well, such as Josh Harrison putting together a nice run of games.  Even Clint Barmes is hitting .300 over the last week.   And wouldn’t you know it, but the Pirates 9 run outburst tonight launched them past the San Diego Padres to no longer be the lowest scoring team in the Majors.   Trailing by 1 headed into the game, they now lead the ‘hapless Padres’ by 8 runs in that category, and trail the Marlins by 15 runs for the next rung up the leaderboard.

The way this team has been playing so far this year, it is looking more an more legitimate that this team is going to hang around a bit longer than it did ‘post Jerry Meals’ in 2011.  And maybe after all those years of being ‘hapless’, Pirate fans are now just ‘happy’.

 

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Why the 2012 Pirates Will Win the World Series

| June 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Sure, even for the most optimistic fan, it can be a little hard to read that title with a straight face.  I admit, it would be an incredible and miraculous story if they were to somehow end the 19 year drought of even a .500 record by bringing home a world title.   You hear all the time and everywhere the reasons why there is no chance in the world that this team could even make the playoffs, let alone with the whole ball of wax.

But on this off day, on a day when I finally find a wee bit of free time to write an article on my painfully neglected site, I am here to tell you why, in fact, this 2012 edition of your Pittsburgh Pirates will in fact shock the world and bring a World Series title back to Pittsburgh.

It’s June 11, and the Pirates are in first place.   If you’re going to win the World Series, you first need to make the playoffs.  Being in 1st place is one way to get there. Staying in 1st place is a better way.  Sure, the Pirates were in 1st place much later than this last season.  And that is one reason why they will be much more comfortable staying there this year.

The Pirates are 5 games over .500 right now.  I’m not sure why Yahoo’s site shows them above the Reds right now, as pretty much every other standings page has the Reds on top due to their alphabetical superiority, but I’ll go with the Yahoo standings.

NL Central Standings - June 12, 2012

Being five games over .500 on June 12 guarantees them nothing other than losing no more than 130 games this year.  But being 5 games over, with a realistic chance of being somewhere around 10 games over .500 by the end of the month is a very good start.   Somewhere around 44-33 at the end of June is a realistic record, considering this team is on a 12-3 tear over the last couple of weeks.  That finish would only be 12-6 to finish the month, and you have three against a bad Twins team in there to go along with 4 against a beat up Phillies team, and a series with the Tigers that looks like it will miss Justin Verlander.  Also in there are the next six against surprisingly good teams Baltimore and Cleveland, and a couple against slumping and injured St. Louis at the end of the month.  12 more wins in June is absolutely possible.

A 44-33 record gets people to stop talking about 19 years of sub-.500 records and gets them instead wondering how good this Pirates team is.   And the answer to that question begins and ends with its pitching staff.  The Pirates have the #3 ranked ERA in all of baseball right now, behind only Washington and the Dodgers.   The team WHIP is tied for 6th in the Majors.  The home ERA is the best in all of baseball.   And the home WHIP trails only the Dodgers by a 1.09 to 1.10 count.

The Pirates have the 4th best ERA in innings 1-6, at 3.41.  And in innings 7 and beyond, it’s even better… 2.93.

Sure, offensively there have been troubles.  We have the 2nd worst batting average in all of baseball.  We trail the Padres by 14 runs to escape last in baseball in runs scored.  We need to get 20 more hits than the A’s in order to escape the cellar in that category.  But we’ve hit more doubles than the Rays, more Home Runs than the Dodgers, and more triples than a majority of the teams in baseball.  Our on base percentage is by far the worst in baseball as well.  And despite what seems like a speedy team, we are in the bottom quarter of the league in steals.

But the Pirates are in first place, even with all of that.  And if they are 44-33, you can bet that there may be a move or two that infuses some offensive firepower into this team again this year.  Last year, Derrek Lee came in and brought some much needed pop, but broke his hand and missed key time last year.  Ryan Ludwick was brought in to do the same.   Who knows what kind of move could be coming this year, but if a Jed Lowrie came over to play short or a guy like Alfonso Soriano was brought in as an outfielder, this team will score more runs.  And with the pitching depth that is on this team, the 2012 Pirates can contend with anyone in this division through October.

So the Pirates shock the world and win the NL Central this year, hitting around 90 wins.  With the wild card the way it is now, the Dodgers would likely be the #1 seed in the NL and get to play the winner of a one game playoff between teams like the Giants and Reds, or maybe the Marlins or Nationals.  That leaves the Pirates to play the winner of the NL East in the opening round of the playoffs.   The East is very good this year, and the Nationals appear to be tops in that division right now.   Forgive me for holding a grudge, but I’d personally love for the Braves to win the division and be the Buccos first playoff opponent in 19 years.  Maybe Sid Bream can even throw out the first pitch for the Braves. It would be a great storyline.  But I think it would either be the Marlins or Nationals that end up winning that division.  Game 1 in PNC Park would feature Strasburg against A.J. Burnett.  Strasburg strikes out the first 15 Pirates that come up to bat, but the Buccos don’t give up many runs either, and steal a late win against the Nats with a run in the bottom of the 9th.   Then the Pirates get a win again Gio Gonzalez and go up 2-0 with a pair of 1 run wins.  Then they go back to DC and beat Edwin Jackson, personally ending his one year contract with the Nationals.

Then the Pirates get the Dodgers in the NLCS, where a hobbled Matt Kemp limps out to pinch hit against Joel Hanrahan in the 9th inning, bringing back memories of Gibson vs. the Eck.  But the Hammer drops on Kemp this time, he reinjures the hammy and the Bucs go on to beat the Dodgers in 5 games due to more dominating pitching performances.

And in sweet justice, when every non-Yankee fan in America falls in love with the new sweetheart, David shocks Goliath as the Buccos beat the Yankees in the World Series.   Though the Pirates win the title, the Yankees would have the World Series MVP on their payroll.  Hollywood couldn’t write a better script than that.  Though I just did.  And it very well could happen.  Just watch, and enjoy the ride.

Let’s Go Bucs!

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