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Pittsburgh Renaissance

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

The Pirates have gone from perennial cellar dweller to NL Central competitor.

Pittsburgh Renaissance

In this article…

The halfway point of the MLB season has come and gone, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are in unfamiliar territory.  They don't reside in last place in the NL Central.  They are above .500 at 45-42.  In fact, the Pirates are only 1.5 games out of first place behind the St. Louis Cardinals.  Pittsburgh didn't win its 45th game until September 3rd last season.  After 87 games a year ago, the Pirates were 30-57.  At this point, Pittsburgh's season was over.  This season?  Not so much.  

The pitcher who lost that 57th game last season, Jeff Karstens, saw his record drop to 2-4 after that game and his ERA balloon to 4.87.  This season, Karstens has turned a complete 180 and now leads the Pirates with a remarkable 2.55 ERA.  No Pirates pitcher won more than 10 games last year.  Off-season pickup Kevin Correia is already 11-6 with a 3.74 ERA. 

On the offensive end, the Pirates certainly are not world beaters.  They rank 22nd in runs, batting average, and on-base percentage.  They have a solid mix of offensive players, though, led by center fielder Andrew McCutchen.  He leads the team in hits, batting average, doubles, triples, home runs, steals, OBP, slugging, and OPS.  He's also a hawk in the outfield, and has recorded a major league-leading 238 putouts in center.*  The Pirates are also managing to get by offensively without highly touted prospect Pedro Alvarez and other starters (Jose Tabata and Ryan Doumit) who have been lost at various points to injury.

*On a side note, McCutchen's exclusion from the All Star Game is pretty ridiculous.  When you really dig into the stats, McCutchen is invaluable to this team.  His WAR (Wins-Above-Replacement) is 4.9, which is third in all of baseball.  Conventional stats really sell him short.

It's really the strength of the pitching that has carried Pittsburgh thus far.  Last year, the Pirates allowed 866 runs en route to the worst record in the majors.  This season, they are well off that pace, having given up only 335 runs.  The highest ERA in the starting rotation is 4.40, and Paul Maholm has a superb 3.08 ERA but only a 5-9 record to show for it (further showing the insignificance of wins).  Their bullpen is greatly improved, with former Nationals reliever Joel Hanrahan coming into the closer's role nicely.  So far he has converted 25 saves and posted an ERA of 1.37.

Is it rational to think that the Pirates can keep this up the rest of the season and actually contend for the playoffs?  Probably not.  But when they get some of their regulars back, perhaps the run support can improve and they can at least work on ending the miserable and unfortunate streak of 18 straight losing seasons.  That would be a step in the right direction for a franchise that has been in desperate need to success for almost two decades.  For all of the Pirates fans that stuck through this awful stretch, you're better men and women than I.  I hope the Pirates keep this going for you.  

Let Charged.fm get you tickets to see the revitalized Pittsburgh Pirates.

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