Nick’s Picks: Pirates look to steal spotlight in the NL Central
There must be something the Pittsburgh Pirates are missing. Maybe they’re not drinking the same water that the Steelers and Penguins are drinking?
The Pirates in the past two seasons have had the weirdest luck. In 2011, they were tied for first place with a 52-47 in the NL Central as of July 25th. But disaster struck the next day, July 26th, in a game versus the Atlanta Braves. The game went into extra innings and lead to a botched call at home handing the Pirates a loss. The particularly bitter loss seemed to affect the team so badly that they had a horrible run thereafter, and ended their season with a 72-90 season.
Then in 2012, as of August 8th the Pirates were 63-47, leading the division before they once again collapsed and ended the year with another losing record, this time 79-83. It was the club’s 20th straight losing season. In fact, the Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992 when they made the playoffs. Makes you wonder how two straight years collapses like those would happen and how it could affect the teams mentality. But this is 2013, and a new year and new slate for all!
This year also marks the year where the Houston Astros move to the AL West making all the divisions equal with 5 teams. The Pirates are still in a tough division with having to deal with the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers, who all had winning seasons last year (at their expense). So assuming the month of August does not get in the way of the Pirates for the 3rd straight year in a row, it should be a very good season for the Pirates and their fans.
The Pirates have a pretty good lineup going into this season with All-Star Outfielder Andrew McCutchen leading the way. Of course there is also Pedro Alvarez and Garrett Jones, who have power and each had 25+ homerun seasons with 85+ RBI. They have since signed Canadian catcher Russell Martin. If there are any question marks we look to we must begin with the pitching and the rotation, which seems solid enough at first glance with AJ Burnett as the ace, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald in the two and three spots in the rotation, and Jeffrey Locke, who will hopefully get to pitch a full season rounding out the rotation. The question might be their closer Jason Grilli, who will be the new closer this season with All-Star Joel Hanrahan traded to Boston for prospects. This is very risky and we will have to wait and see if Grilli turns out to be legit or a bust.
Obviously the team I picked to watch for in the NL Central is the Pittsburgh Pirates, and why not? They seem to be due to win, unless they somehow have another collapse in August, in which case someone might need to check if there is a new baseball curse going on. For now, let us assume that there is not a curse and focus on the fact that this is a good baseball team that can compete with the top teams in the NL Central, and maybe challenge to win the division. Even if they don’t, they could easily win the wildcard spot. Of course this is all assuming that major injuries and horrible cold streaks do not become a huge issue. It is Pittsburgh’s time to shine. If somehow they have a three-peat and blow it in the middle of the season, again then they might have to make some major changes, so let’s wait and see.
Only 2 more Picks to go!
Check out my other Picks for who to watch in each division. Don’t be afraid to like and share with your friend!