Friday, April 1, 2016

The 2016 Pirates

Yesterday I ran through predictions for all 30 teams. In addition, I wrote a 4,000-plus word preview of the Pirates for Banished to the Pen three weeks ago. It's here. Rather than reproduce it, you can click on the link to read it. Here's a summary:

  • The Pirates play in an offense-suppressing ballpark. That makes their hitters appear a little worse than they really are. It's a really good offense.
  • However, it's very dependent on the starting eight position players staying healthy. Since I wrote the preview, the team added David Freese via free agency, and Matt Joyce, who was wretched last year with Tampa Bay, had a pretty good spring (.932 OPS). I'll still stand by my contention that the team's thin behind its starters. 
  • Three of the five starting pitchers from last year's stretch drive--J.A. Happ, A.J. Burnett, and Charlie Morton--are gone. Since I wrote the preview, Juan Nicasio has forced his way into the rotation, allowing no runs in 15 spring innings while striking out 24 and walking five. However, his two new rotation mates, Jon Niese (9.82 spring ERA) and Jeff Locke (6.63), were pretty bad. The rotation looks to be weaker than last year.
  • The Pirates had only three players--infielders Josh Harrison, Jung Ho Kang, and Jordy Mercer--lose significant time to injury. Part of that is by design, but part of it's luck. As I mentioned in the second bullet, the Pirates don't have a particularly deep bench. 
  • The team was also somewhat lucky last year. Its outstanding record in one-run games and high batting average with runners on base are more reflective of good fortune than skill. That could easily reverse. 
All told, I'm expecting an 83-79 record and no trip to the postseason. I hope I'm wrong. A lot of people have talked about how the Los Angeles Angels, by failing to make it deep into the postseason, are wasting the talents of their once-in-a-generation center fielder. It'd be shame to say the same about the Pirates.

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