Pittsburgh Pirates' Tough April Schedule May Test Fans' Patience

Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2013

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 23:  Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle #13 watches the action during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on February 23, 2013 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Following a disastrous end to their once-promising 2012 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates enter 2013 with a lot to prove. But Pittsburgh fans should refrain from jumping to too many conclusions about their team if the Bucs get off to a slow start in April.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the Pirates have the most difficult April schedule of any National League team. Thirty-three of the Bucs' first 42 games come against teams that had a record of .500 or better in 2012.

So it will not be a huge surprise if the Bucs get off to a less-than-stellar start against the likes of the Reds, Cardinals, Braves and Nationals, who account for half of the Pirates' first 32 games.

If this story sounds familiar, it's because it is familiar. Olney's 2012 schedule preview essentially drew the same conclusion, down to the Andrew McCutchen action shot (though this year's caption did lose the "come out swinging" line). 

The Pirates were a huge first-half surprise a year ago, but they didn't make many waves in April, going 10-12 against the aforementioned tough schedule. They were an even .500 at the end of May, but that steady performance against a tough schedule paved the way for their early summer run.

If the Bucs were to get off to a similar start this year, hovering around .500 until the schedule begins to soften up, they would once again be in very good position to pursue a playoff berth and their first winning season in 20 years.

It's been a long time since 1992, and Pirate fans have every right to be impatient. But it's a long season, and there may be no month more difficult in Pittsburgh than April this year.