The easy answer would be, no. I’m not going to trust these 19 games any more than I trusted the 60 games last season.
But maybe that’s too hasty. Here we are 19 games in, 9-10, one game under .500. They’ve played the Reds, Cubs Twice, Padres, Brewers and Detroit. Two bad teams, three teams doing pretty well.
The thing I can say so far, they’ve done all this getting nothing from the center field position. They’ve done all this without their star third baseman. The team has gotten very little from their backup catcher. Kevin Newman looks like a different player than he did this Spring.
Up until yesterday, Mitch Keller has been pretty bad, Trevor Cahill has been good, bad, and downright ugly. Chad Kuhl hasn’t really gotten traction yet and now is on the IL.
Point is, when you read through all of that, this story should really be about explaining to all of you why the start we all expected was actually taking place. Instead, it’s a commentary on how they actually might be underachieving a bit.
The single most optimistic thing I can say about what we’re watching is that this club is one game under .500 and not everything has gone right. Not close actually.
The preseason predictions of 50 win doom many were spewing were always ridiculous, they were based on seeing the results of last season and assuming trading players would make them that much worse. Even that gives the benefit of doubt that folks predicting outcomes like that bothered to look beyond the payroll at all.
Colin Moran was, is and will continue to be an upgrade over Josh Bell, even if we only talk defense. The bullpen was a strength on paper going in, now it’s shown itself to be a strength in games. There is no reward for getting into the Pirates pen, well not if you want to keep piling on anyway.
Is this sustainable? Well, considering they will get Ke’Bryan Hayes back at some point and the bullpen is this good with a solid wave yet to even be used at the training site. Thinking about how underwhelming the rotation has been coupled with the options they still have to call on like Miguel Yahure and Wil Crowe or even a Chase DeJong type.
With Bryan Reynolds sliding over to Center while we wait for the next shot in the dark Ka’ai Tom to make his way here, the lineup just got stronger. The Pirates showed all of us, and the team that they’re happy to give guys a chance, but only to a point. What point? Well, if you run into Dustin Fowler or Anthony Alford, ask them.
When Todd Frazier didn’t make the club out of camp because Phillip Evans played well in Spring and has years of control on top of position flexibility. That very flexibility enabled the club to take advantage of the DFAs of both centerfielders to bring up Frazier to help fill in for the extended loss of Hayes.
This front office provided depth.
The easiest way to digest what we’ve seen and how they’re playing is probably that they look professional. The bullpen shortens games, the lineup is pesky, the players hustle not just when it’s called for but equally for the second out in the third and the last in the 9th.
It’s a fun team to watch and yes, they can actually get better. In fact, based on their own stated intent, they SHOULD get better. For instance, if Mitch Keller’s outing yesterday becomes closer to the norm for him 3/5th of the rotation is on point.
Can they get better? Of course they can, they don’t even have a five man rotation as we speak.
This team is a collection of contradictions to conventional wisdom and I for one appreciate watching a team that clearly has no idea how bad they were supposed to be.
It’s 9 wins. It’s a 1 game under .500 record. But considering they started the season 1-6, its also a sign that they aren’t going to fall to pieces when things don’t go right, hell they’re actually thriving through it.
Long season, but they could easily have gone in the bag after that start, after all it’s what everyone seemingly expected of them, instead they rebounded and maybe they aren’t done improving.