The Pittsburgh Pirates are 28-26 this season. They have plummeted to 6.5 games back in the NL Central and currently sit in fourth place after losing 9 of their last 11 games. Two weeks ago, this team sat in first place.
What happened? Are the Pirates really this bad right now? Were they really that phenomenal two weeks ago? Why is this team’s talent level so difficult to gage at the moment?
At the beginning of the season, assumptions were made.
The starting rotation was seen as suspect. Young and talented yes, but they were still missing a piece or two. Right now, the unit has a 4.19 ERA, good for ninth in the NL.
The bullpen was looked upon as a potential bright spot, albeit mostly inexperienced. They have been up and down all season. Right now, they look horrendous. For the season, this unit has a 4.22 ERA, good for tenth in the NL.
The offense was looked upon as a weak spot. They were seen as lacking real thump. Surprisingly, the Pirates have scored 255 runs, third in the NL.
The Pirates are exactly one-third of way through the 2018 season. Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Nobody knows what’s going on.
At an average age of 26.8 years old, the Pirates have the youngest pitching staff in baseball. Their hitters have an average age of 28.2, 15th in baseball. Take out bench players like David Freeese and Sean Rodriguez and that average drops. Only six players on the current 25-man roster are 30 years old or older.
What does that mean for the rest of the season?
I have no idea. There are so many questions with the team right now both optimistic and pessimistic. I have no answers for any of the following questions and even if I did, they would most definitely be wrong.
- Is Francisco Cervelli actually the best catcher in baseball? His fWAR of 2.0 leads the majors at the moment.
- Can Corey Dickerson continue to play like Brian Giles lite?
- Is Starling Marte BACK?
- Can Trevor Williams be good despite poor peripherals?
- How long can the fresh faces of Nick Kingham, Joe Musgrove and Austin Meadows produce?
- Will Gregory Polanco and Josh Bell ever figure it out?
- What is wrong with Jameson Taillon?
- Will the bench show a pulse this season?
- Is Chad Kuhl a starter?
- Why is Jordy Mercer currently tied for fifth among Pirate batters in fWAR?
Hear’s what I think
The Pirates are an okay playing ball team. I don’t think Francisco Cervelli or Corey Dickerson are true stars. I hope I’m wrong but their career norms suggest otherwise. I don’t think Gregory Polanco or Josh Bell are this bad. I pray I’m right about that.
The starting rotation is average right now. For how young they are, average is not the worst thing in the world. It can actually be seen as a positive in my opinion.
The bullpen will be alright. Felipe Vazquez is still a great closer. Michael Feliz and Edgar Santana still have great stuff. Tyler Glasnow, to me, is the kraken still waiting to be unleashed.
The Pirates are playing awful right now. They were playing great two weeks ago. That’s how baseball works. You don’t get too high. You don’t get too low. It’s a long season. Cliches are a plenty with this sport. Embrace them.
One thing is certain. If the Pirates want to be relevant this season, it really will be a total team effort. This team does not have a true superstar. They have a deep collection of decently good players. Contributions will be needed from 1 to 25.
I honestly have no idea how the final two-thirds of this season will go. Some evidence suggests that they can make a playoff run. Other evidence suggests that they are too inexperienced to make any real noise. It will be fun to find out.
To me, that is the beauty of baseball.