2011 MLB Preview: 10 Reasons Why Pittsburgh Pirates Will Be Worse Than Last Year
The Pittsburgh Pirates come into the 2011 MLB season riding that great losing seasons streak and do not seem to want to get off that horse this year or, for many fans anywhere, for some time.
The Pirates showed the fans and baseball some good young talent with Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata.
These three young players, however, could do little to bring back the winning ways that have been lost in the pages of Pirates history.
The Pirates finished the 2010 season 57-105. This may have angered most cities' sports fans, but for Pittsburgh Pirate fans this has turned into what is expected of a poorly-run joke of an MLB team.
It is almost impossible to imagine a team doing worse than 57-105, but if any team in the MLB could pull off this feat, the Pirates are that one team.
Over the next 10 slides you will see why the Pittsburgh Pirates will do worse in the upcoming 2011 season and see why the city of Pittsburgh and its fans have wait one more year for the record of consecutive losing seasons to end.
No. 10: Catcher
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The Pirates have had trouble keeping a steady catcher in the lineup with starter Ryan Doumit getting injured the past few seasons.
The Pirates used catchers Jason Jaramillo and Chris Snyder when Doumit was out last year.
Jaramillo was a bust, to be kind, having a batting average of only .149 and gathering 13 hits during the 33 games that he played in.
Snyder played just a small amount better than Jaramillo, which is not very hard to do. Snyder hit only .169 in the 41 games he played in.
When Doumit was healthy, he seemed to do only one thing at the plate: hit fly balls or strike out. He played in 124 games last season and batted only .251 with an on-base percentage of .331.
The Pirates should have gotten rid of Doumit when he was putting up more decent numbers in previous years.
Now with injuries starting to build up every year for Doumit, it is going to be hard for Pirates management to deal the catcher.
The Pirates drafted a catcher in the 30th round in this past year's draft,
The Pirates do not seem to have a catcher in the minors who is ready to perform at the major league level, and the top pick of the 2009 draft, catcher Tony Sanchez, is still a few years out.
The Pirates need to either make a move and bring in a catcher who can put up some numbers or hope that Ryan Doumit can stay healthy for the whole year and put up better numbers than he has been.
No. 9: Shortstop
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Ronny Cedeno was the Pirates' No. 1 shortstop last season.
Cedeno was a pretty good defensive player and made a good tandem with second baseman Neil Walker.
Cedeno, though, struggled at the plate, batting only .256 and gathering only 120 hits for the season.
Do not get me wrong—I think that Cedeno is a decent shortstop, but I just do not think he is a good fit with the Pirates.
The Pirates need a young, quick shortstop who can bat at the beginning of the lineup.
Cedeno found himself at the bottom of the order for most of the year. He needs to be up near the top of the order and helping Andrew McCutchen, who will be batting in the leadoff spot.
The other thing that hurts the shortstop situation is the Pirates have little to no depth at shortstop.
The Pirates played four different players at shortstop this past season: Cedeno, Argenis Diaz, Bobby Crosby and Pedro Ciriaco.
The four combined for an average of only .254 and had an awful on-base percentage of .294.
The Pirates are going to have to dig deep to get a good backup for Ronny Cedeno this offseason. Either management brings up a minor league prospect and hopes that he can perform or for once spends some money on a solid, good-hitting shortstop.
No. 8: Outfield
Andrew McCutchen(left), Lastings Milledge(right)
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We all know that the Pirates' center field position is solid with young standout player Andrew McCutchen leading the outfield.
The Pirates are left, though, filling the right field spot.
In the beginning of last year, before bringing up Jose Tabata, the Pirates were moving players around the corners every game, it seemed, and the lineup was being moved around too much.
The Pirates outfield seemed to be in a state of chaos. Lastings Milledge would play left field, then right and then find himself back to the left side the next night.
With the call-up of Tabata halfway through the season, the outfield started to gain some sort of solid form.
The bad thing, though, is that there are three positions in the outfield, not two, and right field seemed to still be a who's who of the Pirates roster for the rest of the season.
In 2010 the Pirates played nine different players in right field. How can a manager expect someone to get MLB game experience and the ability to get used to playing every day when you are playing every person on your roster, it seems, in that spot?
Who will the Pirates go to in the right corner this season? Who knows, but hopefully it is a lot less than nine guys swapping in and out all year.
Until the Pirates coaching staff can stick with a day in and day out outfield setup, the Pirates batting rotation and fielding in the outfield is going to struggle in 2011.
No. 7: Offseason Acquisitions
1B Lyle Overbay, picked up off free agency in December 2010
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The Pirates have been known to do very little every offseason. This year looks to be the same as the previous ones.
The Pirates during the offseason will get rid of players but will never replace them with any inkling of talent.
The Pirates have yet to bring in any name that anyone would come close to recognizing this offseason.
They have brought back reliever Joe Beimel, who is an average reliever that played for the Pirates previously.
They have also brought in first basemen Lyle Overbay and Garrett Atkins from free agency.
The Pirates seem to just be fine with bringing in below mediocre talent to a team that is willing to play below mediocre baseball.
When you play in a professional sports league that has no salary cap, you have to be willing to go out and pick up some top-name players.
The Pirates need to go out and pick somebody up off free agency or at least see if they can work some kind of trade for a decent catcher, shortstop or outfielder.
Let's not forget that pitching could use a few good arms too in the rotation.
It is just these little things that the Pirates have not done for years that have culminated in a team that players are skeptical to come play for, and it is hurting the young players coming up through the system, who need star athletes to learn from and get inspired by to play better.
With no acquisition this offseason so far that has raised my eyebrows in a good way, I do not see this team doing any better than it did last year. It is an almost impossible feat.
No. 6: Offseason Losses
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The Pirates seem to get rid of players who are just starting to make their imprint on baseball—players who in a couple of years could be All-Stars or great trade bait for a big-time player.
The Pirates ship them out for what seems like a bag of bats and a few packs of gum (which is not too far from reality).
This offseason the Pirates have gotten rid of some players who I believe could have helped the team if they had the right coaching and work.
The Pirates traded away young pitcher Zach Duke on November 24 of last year for a player to be named later (so nothing in return).
They then on December 3 declined to tender a contract to outfielder Lastings Milledge and three others.
I believed that Milledge had potential as a middle of the order batter with decent fielding skills.
He may have lacked speed in the out field, but he played the position well.
He was an awful baserunner, however, which seemed to hurt him when the Pirates needed runs the most (pretty much every game).
I liked the way he played the game though. He played it like a kid in Little League, always smiling and having fun. This is something that you do not see from every major league player, and I thought it was a great attribute to have.
Zach Duke, too, was a player I was surprised to see go. He has had a few rough seasons. Last year he had a record of 8-15 with an ERA of 5.72.
If he had a decent pitching coach and was taught properly, I believe he would have stayed, but the Pirates coaching staff, along with the Pirates in general, is why he was traded.
The Pirates get rid of guys. Every Pittsburgh fan knows it, and that is fine; it is part of the business.
However, you cannot get rid of players and not replace them with something better. This is what the organization has been doing now for a long time.
If the Pirates want to sniff an 82-80 season, they better be willing to get these young guys good coaching to bring out their best potential and stop shipping them away when times get tough.
No. 5: Offense
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What is the only way that you can score runs in Major League Baseball?
Putting the bat on the ball and moving runners around the bases.
What did the Pirates not do so hot in 2010? OFFENSE!
The Pirates were plain awful when it was their turn to bat last year.
The team batted an astounding .242 and had a not so good on-base percentage of .304, which was ranked No. 28 in the league.
The batting title champ for the Pirates last year was center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who had an average of only .286. He also led the team in hits with 163 and an on-base percentage of .365.
RBI and home runs were led by first baseman Garrett Jones, who had 86 RBI and 21 home runs.
The Pirates finished No. 29 in MLB in batting average and runs scored.
They finished No. 27 in slugging percentage at .373.
I saved the best stat for last for this offense.
The Pirates scored only 587 runs all year. That is an average of 3.62 runs per game. That run total was only beaten by the Seattle Mariners, who managed only 513.
Along with this stat is the run differential for the Pirates. They managed to take the No. 1 spot in the category, giving up 866 runs and finishing with a run differential of minus-279.
That minus-279 was alone in first place by a mile. The No. 2 team in this category was the Mariners, who finished at minus-185.
The Pirates either need better coaching or better bats in the lineup. Scoring only 3.62 runs a game is just plain terrible.
The team that finished No. 1 in the league in runs per game was the New York Yankees with 859, almost 300 more runs than the Pirates.
The Yankees averaged 5.30 runs per game.
The reason why the Yankees had more runs? It's because they have players who can play baseball at a higher level than the Pittsburgh Pirates players.
I see in no way at all the Pirates improving their run total this year.
They may play better defensively, and you may see the run differential go down, but at best they will finish with 610 runs scored for the whole year in 2011.
No. 4: Home Games
What one place is a team not supposed to lose at? Your home field. That is where you practice, it is where you live and it is the city that you play for.
The Pirates have failed to get that memo and find themselves struggling each year just to get to .500 at PNC Park.
The Pirates finished 40-41 in 2010 at home, a record that should have at least 10 more wins in the win column.
The 40-41 mark tied them for the No. 24 spot in all of baseball.
The last five years at home, the Pirates' records have been:
Win Percentage: .492
The Pirates at home do better than they do on the road, which is expected of every MLB team.
As a team they have a batting average of .254 with an on-base percentage of .316.
The downside to this is that their opponents bat .268 with on-base percentage of .335.
This can be attributed to poor defense but even worse pitching.
Pirate pitchers last year at home had an ERA of 4.54. Hard to win games when your team is averaging a run less per game.
For the Pirates to improve this year, they have to play out of this world at home. If they want to sniff 60 wins, they have to be above .500 at home.
The Pirates are going to struggle at home this year, I believe, and I look for them to only win 36 games at home.
No. 3: Road Games
I'm sure teams would love to just play 162 home games a year and leave it at that.
Sports, however, do not work that way, and MLB teams have to play 81 home and away games each year.
For the Pirates, that is just torture for them to go through.
The Pirates last year were extremely awful on the road, posting a record of 17 wins and 64 losses.
That record gave them bragging rights as the worst road team in baseball in 2010.
Over the past five years on the road, the Pirates have gone:
Win Percentage: .301
The Pirates are not a road team at all (barely a home team).
Why they are so awful on the road I have not the slightest idea.
On the road they batted .231 and had a terrible on-base percentage of .293.
Pitching did not fare as well either, having an ERA of 5.48 while on the road.
How do you become a better road team? Could it just be they are that not confident in themselves to get it done that they just cannot do it? This is one question only the Pirates can answer.
It does not take a brain surgeon to know that 17-64 on the road is beyond terrible, and if Pirates want to see a team do better, this is where they probably need to start.
I see the Pirates this year doing better than 2010 on the road (not too hard to do). Look for a road record of 28-53 this year.
No. 2: Pitching
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Pittsburgh Pirate pitching. Where do you even begin on this topic?
Pirates pitching is terrible, and it has managed to get worse as the years go by.
The only thing the pitching staff has to brag about is that Evan Meek was voted to the 2010 All-Star team last year. Other than that there were was nothing else to be impressed about.
The Pirates pitching staff was led by Paul Maholm, who led in wins at an amazing nine.
He led the team with an ERA of 5.02 (again, the team was only averaging 3.62 runs).
He also led the team with 102 strikeouts in 185.1 innings.
The Pirates were bringing in minor league prospects it seemed like every week to fill in the bottom of the rotation.
All fans saw were young players getting plastered on the mound, and before you knew it the pitcher was back in the minors, probably with severe depression.
The Pirates used their first two picks in the 2010 draft on pitchers who have been said to be able to throw over 100 mph.
The bad thing about these two players? They are only 20 years old, and there is no way that they are going to be brought up anytime in the near future.
The Pirates lost Zach Duke in a trade this offseason and have yet to replace him with anyone that would excite a Pirates fan.
The Pirates are in trouble next year with what looks to be an even worse rotation than last year and a bullpen that has little to no promise whatsoever.
Look out for the Pirates ERA in 2011 to exceed the 2010 mark of 5.00. Look for it to be up around 5.20 or a little higher.
All in all, it is not going to be a fun year if you are pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011.
No. 1: Team Management
A team can only be so good. If you want a better team and better players, an organization must spend money for that talent.
Apparently the front office, mainly Bob Nutting, and general manager Neal Huntington have no idea of how to run a professional baseball team.
The Pirates have not gone without a losing season for 18 years.
Why is that?
Could it be that the team's front office trades away players when they reach a certain level? That is one reason.
What about never bringing in a top-dollar bat, pitcher or fielder? Another good answer.
Is it that management is more worried about what ends up in their bank accounts at the end of the season and thinks the team and city can just deal with being the laughingstock of the league for 18 years? Seems quite right.
The owners and general managers have filled the ears of the players and fans with empty promises over and over again.
I remember at least 10 years ago hearing that the Pirates are five years away from being a contender.
Those five years passed, and then we all got the same reassurance: "Five more years, Pittsburgh."
Five years later...well you get the idea.
We are all tired of hearing that the Pirates are "X" years away from being a contender in the National League.
Here is an idea that a second grader could think of: Take a page from the Yankees and spend some cash to bring some players into the organization.
Then when you have a team that is making playoff runs every year, you start getting phone calls from ESPN wanting to give you a TV contract. That in turn gives you more money to spend on more players.
Then before you know it, you are selling out every single game. You have a better team and are making more money.
If you want to point a finger at anybody for the failures of the Pirates, do not do so towards the players. They can only do so much with what they have.
You have to look to the top to see where the problems lie.
The management of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the MAIN reason above all others why the Pittsburgh Pirates will be worse in 2011 than they were in 2010.