Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pittsburgh Pirates Preview/Prediction

Our next post takes us across the state, where 20 straight years of losing in Pittsburgh has taken a toll on its fans.  The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, and I think by 2014 they will finally have a winning record.  It is 2012 and let's see how they do this year.

Infield: Rod Barajas at catcher, Garrett Jones at first base, Neil Walker at second base, Clint Barmes at shortstop, and Pedro Alvarez at third base.

If you would ask me to name a prototypical offensive and defensive catcher my first answer would be Rod Barajas.  He is a career .238 hitter and will hit around 12 home runs.  He doesn't get on base a whole lot and hits in a lot of double plays but he does handle a pitching staff pretty well.  He will not do anything out of the ordinary but he won't kill you either.  Garrett Jones has a lot of power but he had more strike outs than hits last year.  You can't have an everyday player who is going to hit in the middle of your lineup have that stat.  He simply has got to cut down on his strikeouts if he wants to be an everyday player.  Neil Walker had a sophomore slump last year but still hit .273 with 12 home runs and 83 runs batted in.  I think he gets his average up to around .280 and his home runs get into the teens, which is a very good year from your second baseman.  It wouldn't surprise me if he was the all-star for Pittsburgh this year.  Clint Barmes might be one of the worst every day players in all of baseball.  He hasn't hit higher than .245 since 2008 and even though he played half of his games at Coors Field didn't hit very many home runs.  He signed a two year deal to be the starting shortstop for Pittsburgh, and they will regret that decision very quickly.  Pedro Alvarez has above league average numbers when he is thrown a fastball but he is absolutely putrid when he gets thrown an off speed pitch.  In his career his batting average against off speed stuff is .070.  I'll write that again, it is .070.  He also has struck out 199 times in 169 career games.  I think this is his last chance to be the starting third baseman for the Pirates.  If he doesn't perform he will be cut.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Neil Walker will have the best season of the infielders. Along with the numbers above Walker will have a good shot to drive in 100 runs.  If he does that at second base there is no chance he isn't an all-star, and no chance he doesn't have the best season of the current Pirate infield.

Outfield: Alex Presley in left field, Andrew McCutchen in center field, and Jose Tabata in right field.

Alex Presley doesn't hit for a lot of power and doesn't have a lot of speed but he can hit.  He hit .291 in the minor leagues.  In 58 games last season for the Pirates he hit .294.  I don't think he will hit .294 in his first full season, but I don't think .280 is out of the question either.  McCutchen is the heart and soul of this team, and a consistent threat to be a 20-20 guy.  McCutchen has increased his home run total each of his three years and this year he will top 25.  He also will increase his stole base total and be closer to the 30 he got in 2010.  The biggest problem with Jose Tabata is he can't stay healthy.  Moving from left field to right field should help a little bit, and McCutchen is going to have to realize he needs to cover  more ground.  When Tabata is healthy he can hit for a high average and steal some bases, but he is one of the safest bets in baseball to get injured.  Well, him and another guy who will be mentioned later.

Who will have the best season of these guys? Andrew McCutchen will continue his progression into the games elite.  He is entering his prime now at 25 and his power numbers will continue to rise and his batting average will not fall.  He will lead the Pirates in every offensive category, and that is why he will have the best season.

Starting Pitching: Erik Bedard, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia, and Brad Lincoln.

Here is the easiest prediction I have made in the last month.  Erik Bedard will get injured and will not make more than 25 starts for the Pirates.  When he does pitch he has been very good.  In the last five years he has an ERA of 3.8 and averages better than a strikeout per inning.  The problem is he has only made 82 starts in those 5 seasons because of his shoulder problems.  I think that continues this year.  James McDonald had the best year of his career last year, going 9-9 with an ERA over 4.  He also can't locate his curve very well, which is why he walks an average of one batter every two innings.  He needs to improve his control and he can be an above average pitcher.  Karstens also went 9-9 last year but his ERA was a full run lower than McDonald's.  He strikes out less batters and walks less batters, so he pitches to contact much more than McDonald does.  That is why I think he is going to have a better year.  Correia has won double digit games the last three years, and he has followed a very simple formula.  He just doesn't walk anyone.  He pitches to contact and he does give up a lot of home runs, but he also led the team in wins last year and was an all-star last season.  Brad Lincoln was the #4 pick in the 2006 draft, and one of the reasons why the old regime is no longer there.  In 17 career major league starts he has a 5.74 ERA and is career 3-7.  He was not worthy of the #4 pick then, and he is not worthy of a major league roster spot now.  It is also worth noting that A.J Burnett will be in this rotation once he comes back from injury.  My guess is once he gets into the rotation he will be taking the spot of Brad Lincoln, who will be officially be considered a bust after this year.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Correia will have the best season, winning double digit games for the fourth year in a row.  He will have a higher ERA than most double digit winners, but he will still get there.

Bullpen:  Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Chris Resop, and Daniel McCutchen.

Last year Hanrahan had 40 saves for the Pirates and earned his first all-star berth.  The reason for his success was because he only issued 16 walks all year long.  I don't think he will be as successful this year because I don't think he will have that many opportunities, but I still think he will be successful this year.  Evan Meek struggled with his velocity last year and it mightily affected his performance.  So far this spring he got up to 94 so it looks to be returning. He was one of the pleasant surprises of 2010 and if his velocity stays at 94 he will be fine.  Resop's primary tool in getting batters out is the strikeout and he did it very well last year.  If he continues to average more than a strikeout an inning he will have a job in this league for a long time.  Daniel McCutchen is probably best known for throwing 90 pitches in that 10 inning game against the Braves last year.  After that his velocity and usefulness went down the drains. He isn't a bad option as long as they can limit his pitches.

Who will have the best season of these guys?  Hanrahan will continue to throw strikes, get people out, and rack up saves.  Like I stated he may not get to 40 but he will be very effective again.  The only reason why he doesn't get to 40 saves is because he won't have that many opportunities.

Record: 74-88, fourth in the National League Central

Next up:  San Diego Padres

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