(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 25th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Pittsburgh Pirates. On deck: San Diego.)
PITTSBURGH PIRATES (2012: NL Central 79-83, fourth 18 out)
Pittsburgh fans have been teased the past two seasons as the Pirates would perform well up to the All Star break only to gradually fade away. And projections are it could happen again.
Last season the Bucs were actually in first place and above .500 into August, but alas the final count was 79 wins and 83 losses. It’s been over 20 years since Pittsburgh finished above .500 and the LVH book projects 77½ wins. And, rightly so.
It’s not all despair for the Pirates. The farm system has produced and reports are there’s lots more talent developing. Andrew McCutcheon is one of baseball most exciting players. Pedro Alvarez has plenty of pop, but has yet to reach his full potential.
The decision to acquire AJ Burnett last year from the Yankees was a major success. So much so that management went to the Bronx well again to bring in catcher Russell Martin. Starling Marte is this year’s prized rookie hopeful in left field.
That said, there’s too much recycled material like Wandy Rodriguez, Clint Barmes and Garrett Jones. Brandon Inge, over from Detroit, could work his way into the lineup.
The Pirates sagged a year ago when pitcher James McDonald went from staff ace to staff...well, you can fill in the blank. Jason Grilli is a shaky replacement as the closer with Joel Hanrahan gone.
Not having Houston to kick around anymore in the NL Central won’t help Pittsburgh. Cincinnati and St. Louis are clearly the best in the division. The Brewers are sweating out the Ryan Braun controversy and the Cubs are, well, the Cubs.
The Pirates ballpark is arguably the prettiest in baseball. Hopefully the team will match it in the coming years. It just doesn’t look like it will be this season.
Projected wins (77½)
Infield: C: Russell Martin; 1B: Garrett Jones; 2B: Neil Walker; 3B: Pedro Alvarez; SS Clint Barmes.
Outfield: LF: Starling Marte; CF Andrew McCutcheon; RF Travis Snider.
Pitching: AJ Burnett; Wandy Rodriguez; James McDonald; Jeff Karstens; Jeff Locke.
Closer: Jason Grilli.
Top reserves: INF Brandon Inge; RP Mark Melancon.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].