Pirates Expect to Compete by 2010

Adam LindsayContributor IMay 17, 2009

NEW YORK - MAY 09:  Paul Maholm #28 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the New York Mets on May 9, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 10-1.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the better part of the last two decades in relative obscurity. There is no doubt that we have seen some great Pirate players, such as Brian Giles, Kevin Young, Jason Bay, and our current workhorse, Nate McLouth. But, by 2010, all that misery will be forgotten because the Pirates will finally be relevant.

The answer is with starting pitching. The starters have been dismal with the exception of ace Paul Maholm compiling an amazing (for the Bucs, anyway) 9-9 record with and ERA under ERA, but it all goes down hill from there. Zach Duke went 5-14 with a 4.82 ERA; Tom Gorzellany went 6-9 with a 6.67 ERA; Ian Snell went 7-12 with a 5.42 ERA; Phil Dumatrait went 3-4 with a 5.26 ERA. Jeff Karstens teased everyone when he nearly threw a no-hitter, then proceeded to lose what seemed like every start after that.

This trend in starting pitching should change in 2009 and especially by 2010. Paul Maholm has begun his 2009 campaign with a 3-1 record and the rest of the pitching staff looks solid. These are young guys and one more year could mean—dare I say it?—legitimate starting pitching.

Zach Duke has broken out of the funk he has been in for the past two years; Snell continues to have good outings; Ohlendorf looks like he will mature; Karstens is decent, but getting better.

But what is pitching if you've got no run support? The Pirates' hitting is the thing that looks the most improved in 2009 and will be a threat in 2010. Nyjer Morgan has established himself as a capable leadoff hitter who has both great hitting ability and tremendous speed. Freddy Sanchez is one of the best contact hitters in the game and makes for a dangerous combo at the top of the order. The power threats in the lineup, McLouth and Adam LaRoche, are both hitting well and look to be the first dual 30 homerun hitters on the Bucs since Ramirez and Giles. The bottom of the lineup looks solid with Andy LaRoche hitting better and Brandon Moss getting timely hits.

To say a few words about fielding, Andy LaRoche, who started the year with a three error performance against St. Louis, has been stellar at third base since then and anchors a solid defensive team that seems to make top-play catches every night.

Don't expect a playoff appearance in 2009, but watch out in 2010, because next year's Bucs could be last year's Rays.