The All-Star break has arrived, and for some teams it couldn’t be sooner. For some teams, they didn’t want the break to hit anytime soon. Others couldn't wait for the break to relieve them of bad losing streaks.
Two teams I can think of would be the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Mets. The Rays are on a seven-game losing streak and the Mets are on a nine-game win streak. A break could mean disaster for the Mets and relief for the Rays.
Those are the two extremes but, a lot of teams are in between. One of those teams would be the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates hit the All-Star break with a 44-50 record. That is nothing to be pleased about unless you are the Bucs. This is the best their record has been at the All-Star break in recent years.
Last year they were 40-48 then took an immediate dive, going 2-14 after and killing the season once again.
Past being the past, let’s look at this season and what is to come for the Bucs. Following is the season rewind and a look forward about moves and where they are going to end up.
Many people—especially fans such as myself—think this is a season where the Bucs have overachieved.
Offensively is where many people expected this team to struggle, with the lack of a strong center fielder, a struggling Adam LaRoche, inconsistent Jason Bay, and the lack of a power hitting third baseman. No one expected this team to be scoring runs.
In fact, the pitching was considered to be this team’s strong point, with a group of young pitchers that can throw the ball and are still learning how to "pitch," not just throw.
A month into the season perceptions quickly turned. The starting pitching was showing no signs of consistency and the offense was producing runs.
The bullpen was considered the strong point 1/3 of the way through the season, until the inconsistency started to show with Yates and Capps, and Osoria started to lose it.
With the inconsistency of both the starting staff and the bullpen, the Pirates have acquired the worst ERA in the MLB. When are fingers going to start to point to Jeff Andrews, the new pitching coach?
With a record of 44-50 with the worst ERA in the entire league, you can't help but have some respect for that offense.
With the emergence of Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, and Jason Bay that offense is finding way to produce. Jack Wilson, gone for much of the season due to injury, has come back and is now hitting above .300. The power of switch hitting catcher Ryan Doumit provides a boost as well.
All this offense is coming with a struggling Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, and Jose Bautista.
LaRoche is showing signs of heating up in the second half as usual. Sanchez has been nothing but a disappointment, batting a measly .226. Jose Bautista is a fantastic utility player with great defensive skills, but his bat is nothing but inconsistently average.
The Pirates also have added depth and hopeful starters for this year and the future.
Adding Jason Michaels was an extremely underrated move for this team. He has come up with many clutch hits to keep this team in games and also win games; a walk off home run against the St. Louis Cardinals is the most recent of those hits.
With some depth in the minor leagues at outfield, some questions come up about what they should do come the trade deadline. The Pirates have a slew of FA that they are going to have to make tough decisions about.
One that is really important is Jason Bay. He is showing the form of old this season, which could mean bad things for management.
He will be asking for a healthy sum of money, and with the hopeful signing of Alvarez that may be hard to achieve. Those two guys should without a doubt be No. 1 on the Pirates' list to keep.
Nady has been trade bait for a while and continues to be just that. The Bucs are asking for the world, which is what you want to hear as a Pirate fan. See Aramis Ramirez trade.
Along with Nady, other trade bait consists of Damaso Marte. I think it is inevitable that both of these guys are going, though I would like to see Marte stay.
The question is when they should get rid of Marte—the end of the season or at the deadline? I believe they should at the deadline because everyone wants that guy they can count on late in the game and are willing to give up more.
One thing is for sure. This team is going to have such a different look next season.
The rest of the season will also depend on when/if some of these guys will part ways with this recently bleak franchise.
The schedule looks favorable coming out with the start of a four-game set against the Colorado Rockies in Colorado right after the All-Star break. Taking two of four from that series would be nice, but taking three would definitely set a positive tone, especially after going 2-14 out of the break last season.
The next three series are with the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, and the Rockies yet again. All three series are very winnable.
If this team is flirting with .500 before July 31, the questions then will rise with what the Pirates should do with the players that may be tough to keep or not worth keeping.
Nady I think will be gone regardless of the quest for .500, but Marte, Bay, Doug Mientkiewicz, Yates, Gomez, Grabow, and many others may or may not be shopped.
Players that could draw some interest from teams are Marte, Bay, and Mientkiewicz, and even Gomez has heard some rumblings from other teams.
Should you unload them at the deadline and shoot for next year, or do you keep some fans happy and keep this team that is nothing more than a .500 ball club at best together?
I believe they should unload anyone they can for whatever deal they can get. I am not saying to just throw them out there for some measly prospects but, to get what they can for them.
If they do follow through with that and the team is without Nady, Bay, Marte, and maybe a few others, the team has some depth in the minors that they can pull up and at least make some noise.
Hopefully, with those trades they got some pitching prospects that are making some noise later in the season in the minors.
All that being said, with the big names being gone I don’t see this team making it to the .500 mark. It would be a wonderful surprise if they can prove me wrong.
I think the record will be respectable from a Bucs standpoint. They can finish fourth in the NL Central with a 75-87 record. Respectable to say the least.
This team can take a couple different directions which are yet to be answered. It’ll be exciting to see the new management in action. Hopefully they make some good decisions for the better of the franchise.