“It’s gonna be a long season”
“These guys might only win 25 games!!!!”
“What a joke, Nutting is happy as hell”
These were some comments after the Pirates won their second game of the season against the Cubs. It made them 2-6 on the young campaign and four of those losses weren’t exactly close.
I’m sure you already have yourself convinced I’m going to launch into an I told you so type article, but I’m really just trying to show how quickly it changes. Currently sitting at a still losing record 7-9 the Pirates have looked like, well, a young building baseball team.
They’re still missing power, they still have position holes, the starting rotation has some potential that hasn’t really ripened.
They still have players who haven’t performed well who we reasonably should expect will.
Point is, through 16 MLB games this team is two games under .500 and the thing is, they really and truly could be better than this.
Now, I’m in no way predicting this club finishes the season over that mark, but if I told you pre-season the Pirates would, come 16 games in, have 3 struggling starting pitchers, Newman would be invisible and oh yeah, Ke’Bryan Hayes would have only played one full game, and still have a 7-9 record you’d have laughed in my face. Hell, I predicted 90 losses and had some of you laughed in my face.
It’s baseball, two weeks from now we could be talking about a 13 game losing streak and pretending we know the 2022 number one pick overall.
Point is, for what Ben Cherington is doing, being god awful isn’t a requirement. I know some of you believe the team would be best suited to fall off the face of the earth for two or three seasons and get the top pick in the draft for all of those seasons but we often forget, the players don’t agree or think that way. Possibly more importantly, you wouldn’t want them to, you’d beat the hell out of them if they looked like dead men walking. A team full of Derek Bell’s.
Should we adjust our preseason predictions? Well you go ahead if you want, but I’ll just let the season play out. Remember I said they’d be better at the end than the beginning and that prediction was completely based on my belief that the rotation would improve as players are swapped out with younger pitchers with more upside.
They’ve played a Reds team that was absolutely on fire. A Cubs team in utter disarray on the cusp of an honest to god teardown, twice. A nicked up Padres team that probably looked past them to their series with the Dodgers. And finally a decimated Brewers club missing Wong, Cain and Yelich riding excellent starting pitching.
I can look at their record and be happy they got here while still realizing they’ve had some nice breaks. Now, as mentioned, you have to balance that with acknowledgement that the Pirates are missing Hayes too.
The bullpen is really good and that masks a whole lot of problems. In fact it’s so good it might force teams to approach the starters differently. Right now the biggest problem for the Starting rotation is that they aren’t providing length and are walking far to many people. Well, as the league starts to realize that getting to the Pirates pen isn’t exactly a bonus, I think we’ll see more early swings against the starters which could really help them out with walks and pitch count. Never underestimate the importance of a solid bullpen.
Phillip Evans even while coming back to earth a bit filled in admirably for Hayes, hell he maybe even earned himself a more consistent role as we move forward.
Now they head off to Detroit (6-10) and Minnesota (6-8) to continue the road trip staring down the barrel at getting Ke’ back in the mix. Those records are not much different than what the Pirates have put on paper but they have an opportunity to make some hay here.
Give yourself a chance to really watch and evaluate what you see. You know, actual baseball players doing actual baseball stuff.
Allow yourself to forget about your way too firm stance that Colin Moran was nothing more than part of a terrible trade and would never amount to anything.
Give yourself a chance to step back from your firm belief that the Pirates somehow ruined Bryan Reynolds.
Be honest about what you’ve seen Kevin Newman do at the plate.
I mean, actually look at the team and who’s doing what.
This team was brutal in 2019, in just about every way a team could be. So when they traded off some of the perceived best players they had and payroll went down even further of course it led to predictions of doom. Of course to those not actually watching what was being built it was going to be an even worse version of your Pittsburgh Pirates.
Well, for the believers, the realists, the doomsayers, I think we can all come together and say, this is better than what we expected so far, and at the end of the day, no matter what stage of a build you’re in, the players don’t need to perform as such.
I’m not blind, they have problems, problems that will catch up with them at some point but the players on the roster have real careers. They’re hunting real paydays. They really have room to get better or worse. And the major difference this year hasn’t really even cropped up much, there is real depth should they need it.
If significant injuries crop up, this team has an answer currently at the training site, and eventually AAA. That’s good. That means an injury to a reliever doesn’t send Ben to the waiver wire praying someone who’s thrown an MLB inning or two is out there.
I’m not saying you should walk around peacocking for this club, I mean it’s not a championship team, it probably isn’t even a .500 team, but it also isn’t a historically bad team.
The only time being wrong really matters is when you can’t allow new information to alter your stance. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but I am saying, maybe bother watching a game or two before you come back to me with more Nutting nonsense.
Maybe watch what’s happening on the field before you tell me this team made mistakes moving assets. Hey, here’s a thought, check back in at the end of the season and tell me you still don’t like those moves.
After all, this game isn’t played on Fangraphs, it’s played in ballparks and EVERY player wants to win. Even Pirates players.
And that’s the point.