Previewing the 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates

A week from today, the Pittsburgh Pirates will set sail on another season, looking to get the elephant that is their 18-season losing streak off their backs. The team made some improvements to what was a disaster of a 2010 squad that finished 57-105. Is 2011 finally the year they reach the magic number of 81-81? Let’s take a look at how the 2011 roster is shaping up.

Pitchers

Player 2010 IP 2010 Win-Loss 2010 ERA
Kevin Correia (With SD) 145 10-10 5.40
Paul Maholm 185.1 9-15 5.10
Ross Ohlendorf 108.1 1-11 4.07
Charlie Morton 79.2 2-12 7.57
James McDonald 71.2 4-6 4.02

The Pirates are trying to improve on what was a complete and unmitigated disaster in 2010. Manager Clint Hurdle announced these five as the rotation that the team will begin the season with today. As you can see, the numbers last year weren’t pretty.

When Kevin Correia was signed in December, the Pirates figured him to be the guy rounding out the rotation. However a good spring showing by Correia has given him the opportunity to take the game ball on March 31st at Wrigley Field. While he should be serviceable, he has only pitched more than 140 innings in a season twice. He isn’t the guy you can count on to be an ace.

Workhorse Paul Maholm did what was expected in 2010: Eat up innings and keep the ball on the ground. However teams starting teeing-off of Paul more often last season and have caught on to his less than overwhelming stuff. A less than stellar spring has me thinking his days as the best of the Pirates rotation are coming to an end.

Ross Ohlendorf may have been the unluckiest pitcher in baseball last season. Despite having the best statistics on the staff, he had only a 1-11 record to show for it. To top it off, he spent a good chunk of the season on the disabled-list. He has gotten bombed this spring (0-3 10.24 ERA) which throws up a red flag in my opinion.

Charlie Morton had one of the worst seasons by a pitcher in history in 2010. After trying to regain his focus in AAA, he came to spring remarkably better and won the last spot in the rotation.

James McDonald looked stellar after coming in a trade from the Dodgers last July. He definitely has the best strikeout pitches on the staff and should rack up decent numbers. The key will be limiting the walks and staying healthy of course.

Lineup

Player 2010 Average 2010 HR 2010 RBI
Jose Tabata (LF) .299 4 35
Neil Walker (2B) .296 12 66
Andrew McCutchen (CF) .286 16 56
Pedro Alvarez (3B) .256 16 64
Lyle Overbay (1B) w/TOR .243 20 67
Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz (RF) .247/.250 21/7 86/31
Chris Snyder (C) .229 15 48
Ronny Cedeno (SS) .256 8 38

Jose Tabata showed why he was such a highly touted prospect during his half-season in the bigs in 2010. His pop and speed will make him a nice catalyst at the top of the order.

After coming out of nowhere last year Neil Walker put together a fine season in relief of Aki Iwamura at second base. It will be very interesting to see if he can keep it up and avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.

Speaking of sophomore slumps, Andrew McCutchen certainly avoided it in 2010. Hurdle seems to like batting him third (a move I along with many others don’t agree with), but I guess Clint is feeling that Cutch’s power is coming along. This is the year he becomes a star in baseball.

Arriving in June as the most hyped Bucco prospect since Barry Bonds, Pedro Alvarez showed why sometimes, and completely frustrated fans at other times. His power output will be appreciated for a full season, however he continues to swing at a lot of bad pitches, and a large number of strikeouts are inevitable.

Lyle Overbay was signed in the winter to solidify first base. I didn’t like this signing at first, but this spring I’ve noticed his bat and steady defense should help this team out a lot.

In his first full season in the bigs, Garrett Jones didn’t put up crazy numbers like his debut in 2009 suggested. He struggled so much against lefties that the Pirates went out and got Matt Diaz for a platoon in right field. Jones excels against righties, and Diaz kills lefties. This should lead to some increased production.

Sick of Ryan Doumit’s overall incompetence, the Pirates brought in Chris Snyder to get control behind the dish. Though he was offensively challenged at times, and his defense wasn’t much better, he seemed to handle the pitching staff much better. Don’t really expect anything too special from him in 2011 as he’s really a stop-gap until Tony Sanchez is ready for the MLB.

Ronny Cedeno is about as non-descript a player as you get. Not much offense. Doesn’t exactly dazzle with the glove. The Pirates tried getting in another shortstop to replace him through free agency, but failed to. He’s a cheap option that doesn’t really help the team, but doesn’t hurt them too much either.

Bench

Player 2010 Average 2010 HR 2010 RBI
Ryan Doumit (RF/C) .251 13 45
Pedro Ciriaco (IF) .500 (2 for 4) 0 1
Jason Jaramillo (C) .149 1 6
Diaz/Jones (OF) .247/.250 21/7 86/31
Steve Pearce (IF/OF) .317 0 3

After failing as a starter in right field, first base, and catcher, Ryan Doumit will begin the season on the bench. After trying desperately to trade him, the Pirates appear to be on the hook for his $5 million salary in 2011. Being defensively challenged all around the diamond, I don’t figure him being more than a situational bat.

Pedro Ciriaco who was brought over in the Church/Crosby for Snyder deal looks to be in position to make the team as a backup middle infielder. If Cedeno scuffles, look for some extra time for Pedro, as the team will try to see if he can figure into the team’s future plans.

Despite an atrocious 2010 at the plate, Jason Jaramillo is in position to make the team as a backup catcher. Nothing really special about him, as the catcher position has become a sort of black hole for the team.

The platoon of Garrett Jones and Matt Diaz will ensure that another situational pinch hitter will be on the bench late in games.

Though the 25th man may be a toss-up, I have a feeling Steve Pearce will be the one who gets the last spot. He showed some promise before an injury sidelined him most of 2010. He has been getting reps at 3rd this spring, and if he does a good enough job, he could give Alvarez some relief against left-handed pitchers.

Bullpen

Player 2010 Appearances 2010 ERA 2010 Holds/Saves
Evan Meek 70 2.14 15/4
Joel Hanrahan 72 3.62 18/6
Jeff Karstens 26 (19 starts) 4.92 0/0
Brian Burres 20 (13 starts) 4.99 0/0
Joe Beimel (with COL) 71 3.40 20/0
Scott Olsen 17 (15 starts) 5.56 0/0
Chris Resop 23 3.86 5/0
Garrett Olson 35 4.54 1/1

Evan Meek was the team’s All-Star in 2010, however the team thought it would be better if he would be the set-up man instead of closer. His durable arm makes him a wise choice for that role.

Joel Hanrahan was named the closer at the very beginning of spring training. He has the stuff to hold down the role, and should be very successful.

Jeff Karstens figures to be the long man out of the pen. There is always the chance he could get yet another crack at the rotation if injuries and underperformance take over.

Though he was a spot starter in 2010, Brian Burres has been fairing well as both a starter and reliever in spring training. I expect him to see more time as a middle reliever in 2011.

Brought in to be a lefty specialist, Joe Beimel is back for a second go-around with the team that drafted him. Plagued with inconsistency and injuries this spring, I have my doubts about his chances for success in 2011.

Whether he likes it or not, Scott Olsen will start the season in the ‘pen. If he keeps it together, he definitely has a shot at seeing some starts. But in the short term, he’ll have to be a middle-reliever.

Chris Resop took advantage of a depleted pitching staff to put up decent numbers in 2010. He will get the chance to stick around by starting the year as a righty middle-reliever.

Finally, the Pirates got some more experience into the mix by claiming another lefty off waivers last week, Garrett Olson. He has bounced around the majors and minors, and really hasn’t done anything special with his career. However, he is the best option of the remaining relief candidates.

Predictions

Most Likely to Breakout- James McDonald. There are a lot of “ifs” but if the control comes around, he has the stuff to turn heads and make a name for himself.

Most Likely to Disappoint- Paul Maholm. He has become too hittable recently. It adds up to a recipe for disaster in 2011.

Most Likely to be All-Star Rep- Andrew McCutchen. Cutch becomes a nationally recognized star in 2011, not just that cult hero that only hardcore fans of baseball know.

Most Likely to be Traded- Joel Hanrahan. At 29, he is probably at his peak value for his career. Wouldn’t surprise me if Neil Huntington unloads him at the deadline.

Don’t Be Too High On- Pedro Alvarez. Yes he’s very good, but his hitting is still coming along. He’s not going to be bashing a ton of home runs this year or hitting for a high average.

Don’t Be Too Low On- Lyle Overbay. A lot thought this was another dead end free agent signing but from what I’ve seen in spring training, Lyle could be a nice addition to this team. His defense is much needed and the bat could have a little pop left.

Final Prediction

Using their PECOTA projection software, Baseball Prospectus projects the 2011 Pirates to a 71-91 record, 5th in the NL Central. If this were to happen the Pirates would win more than 69 games for the first time since 2004. While I like the outlook, I just don’t see the team making a drastic 14 game improvement in just one year. Certainly they weren’t as bad as their 105 losses indicated last year, but this is the Pirates. This summer will still be long, just not quite as long

Record: 67-95

What do you think the Pirates will do? Leave your predictions and what you think will happen as a comment.

 

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About suhlmann12
journalism student at Ohio University. Huge fan of Pittsburgh sports teams

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