The Pittsburgh Pirates are at a disadvantage in the NL Central compared to the Cardinals and, especially, the Cubs, but this is the only other team that has a chance to push those other two and maybe squeeze into a wildcard spot.
The Pirates broke out of a 21 season losing streak in 2013, stringing together three straight Wild Card berths before falling back below-.500 last year. Still, much of the same team that went to the playoffs is still here, they just need Andrew McCutchen to play to form, the youngsters to continue to develop at the big league level and the bullpen to hold down the fort without Mark Melancon.
2016 Record: 78-83
2016 Moneyline Record: -13.78 Units
2016 Over/Under Total Record: 89-69-4
Current World Series Odds: +4300
Current Odds To Win NL: +2368
Current Odds To Win NL Central: +910
Regular Season Win Total: 83
The biggest story for the Pirates over the offseason was whether or not they would trade McCutchen. It appeared they were close to sending him to the Nationals before the White Sox swooped in and sent Washington Adam Eaton for a huge package instead.
Eventually talks fell through and McCutchen is back in a Pirates’ uniform, but he’s not back in centerfield. Instead, the team decided to move McCutchen to right, allow Starling Marte to slide over to center and put Gregory Polanco over in left.
The alignment is different, but the names are the same in this outfield. Marte continues to get better and better. He was far and away the best player for the Pirates last year with a rWAR of 4.9. He hit .311 with 47 steals and added 48 extra base hits. Polanco had a break out year himself, with 22 long balls and an OPS+ of 107. Unfortunately, McCutchen took a step back, becoming essentially an average offensive contributor based on OPS+.
The former MVP OPSed at least .911 for three straight years and put up a .889 OPS in 2015 after a tough start, but in 2016 his OPS was just.766. Are we seeing the new, older McCutchen, settling in as an average performer? He’s still just 30-years old. He should be better in 2017. He’s motivated after the trade talks and position change. If he bounces back like he should, this is the best outfield in baseball. That’s particularly true when you consider Austin Meadows who can be brought up if an injury happens.
In the infield is where more questions lie. Jordy Mercer is a solid shortstop and Francisco Cervelli has been good behind the dish in his time in Pittsburgh, but Josh Harrison hasn’t been the same player since his All-Star campaign in 2014 and Jung Ho Kang cannot even get to the States given his legal issues in Korea. That means David Freese will be at third, leaving first open for Josh Bell to sink or swim. Bell showed pretty well last year in his first taste of big league action.
With positional talent on the field, the Pirates can compete with most teams—save the Cubs—but it’ll be the development of the young starters that determines if this is another sub-.500 season in Pittsburgh or another season chasing the Wild Card.
Gerrit Cole is back and ready for a full and healthy season. When he’s right, he’s one of the better pitchers. He had a bit of a hiccup last year, but the now 26-year old still had a respectable 3.88 ERA in his 21 starts, but he’s a career 3.23 ERA pitcher with a .610 winning percentage.
The rest of the rotation after Cole includes one veteran: Ivan Nova. The rest of the guys—Jamison Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Tyler Glasnow—are all young guns.
Taillon was the team’s best pitcher last year so he seems to have adjusted well to The Show. In 18 starts, he pitched to a 3.38 ERA and 1.115 WHIP. Kuhl and Glasnow, meanwhile, were less consistent and had smaller sample sizes.
As for Nova, he was floundering in New York for the Yankees, but after Ray Searage got a hold of him, the pitching guru added Nova to the long list of pitchers he has fixed. He was 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA in 21 games in New York and 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts in Pittsburgh.
Overall, given the youth the starters, the bullpen will be asked to take on some of the load. Tony Watson transitioned into the closer’s role with the trade of Mark Melancon last year. He’s a good option, but the guys behind him include some good arms with questions such as Daniel Hudson who was good for Arizona last year, but had thrown just 2.2 big league innings in the two years prior to last year.
April 3-6: at Red Sox
April 7-9: vs Braves
April 10-12: vs. Reds
April 14-16: at Cubs
April 17-19: at Cardinals
April 21-23: vs. Yankees
April 24-26: vs. Cubs
April 28-30: at Marlins
The Pirates will make the short trip to Boston for just the second time ever in their first series of the year. Pittsburgh’s young pitching staff will be tested right out of the gate in that series as the Red Sox led baseball in runs scored a year ago and are one of the best teams, on paper, in the American League. Pittsburgh’s pitchers will have an extra challenge as the games are in Fenway, meaning they’ll have to face a DH in lieu of the opposing pitcher.
After the Sox, the Pirates return home for an easy home stand against Atlanta and Cincinnati. Assuming the Pirates lose the series to Boston, they’ll be able to make up ground right away before turning their attention to the Cubs and Cardinals on the road.
View this years MLB game match-ups with the complete seasonal schedule for all MLB teams. Each year we will be updating the season schedule with the current information including final scores, so bookmark this page.
The 2017 Major League Baseball season is tentatively set to begin on April 2, 2017, and feature three games, including the 2016 World Series champions Chicago Cubs facing off against the St. Louis Cardinals, which will be ESPN's first Sunday Night Baseball game of the year.
The 88th MLB All-Star Game will be hosted by the Miami Marlins and will be played at Marlins Park on July 11, 2017. It will be televised nationally on Fox.
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