The Pittsburgh Pirates have a young and talented roseter with big aspirations for 2011.
The 2011 Pittsburgh Pirates are guaranteed to finish no worse then .500 at the All-Star break. Considering the last time this franchise finished the season with a winning record was 1992, this is a promising start.
It's not going to be an easy task for the Buccos to continue their winning ways in the second half of the season. Fear not Pittsburgh fans, here are the top 10 reasons to be excited about the rest of this season.
Mark Reynolds, who already has 20 home runs, would fit perfectly at third base.
The Pittsburgh Pirates haven't been buyers at the trade deadline mostly because they're already out of the division race by the All-Star break. However this year may be different, but it's not likely. With a lot of their young talent already in the majors and management unlikely to part ways with its young pitchers in the farm system, the Pittsburgh Pirates most likely won't make a move.
That being said, manager Clint Hurdle has said that he would like another bat to compliment the great pitching they've been getting. There are some bats out there that would help the Pirates have a some more pop in their line-up, but are they will come at a price.
If history tells us anything here, the Pirates are rarely willing to pay that price.
With no training camp to watch, fans will turn their attention to the Pirates.
In most other cities, the NFL Lockout would have a minor effect on the cities other sports teams. However the city of Pittsburgh is a bit different and in recent history baseball season ends the day the Steelers report to training camp. This year the Pirates have two things working in their favor. The first is the fact that they actually have a competitive team that fans want to go watch. The second is the uncertainty of there actually being an NFL season this year.
With no training camp and preseason football to attend, sports fans will look to the diamond and continue to fill PNC Park at a record-setting rate.
The Pirates have 48 of their remaining 72 games against the relatively weak NL Central.
After the All-Star break, the Pirates will have 72 games remaining on the schedule. Of those games, 48 of them will be against teams within their division. As of now, the Astros and Cubs have the two worst records in baseball and the Pirates have a total of 16 games against those two teams. At the top of the NL Central, the Cardinals and Brewers have been fairly unimpressive and currently have the worst record among division leaders in the NL.
Unless one of those two teams makes a deal, which is possible, it's likely that anybody will distance themselves from the rest of the division. Also, the Pirates have the best winning percentage against divisional opponents in the Central.
With Ryan Doumit on the DL, the Pirates most likely won't be getting rid of anyone at the deadline.
In the past, teams looking to improve their roster mid-season could always call up the Pirates and make a deal. The questions in Pittsburgh were always about what young players could make a difference in a couple years. Well this year appears to be different in that the Pirates have only a few players, if any, who they would be wiling send away in a trade.
Relegated to a utility player, Ryan Doumit's name surfaced all throughout the offseason as a possible trade candidate. However he landed on the disabled list earlier this season, so that pretty much eliminates his name for any discussions.
All five of the Pirates starters have at least 9 quality starts this season.
The Pirates pitching staff has done an outstanding job this season of giving the team a chance to win every game. They currently rank 10th in all of baseball with 50 quality starts this season. Paul Maholm has a team high 11 quality starts this season, with Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens right behind him with 10.
Correia also has a team high 11 wins, one shy of the league lead. If they can continue to this kind of production out of their starters, the bullpen should be well-rested for a late push.
"The Hammer" is perfect in save opportunities for the Pirates this year.
The lone representative for the Pirates in this years All-Star game is their closer Joel Hanrahan. This is the first year Hanrahan has been a full time closer and has been a perfect 25 for 25 in save opportunities.
Known as "The Hammer" in Pittsburgh, Hanrahan has given up just six earned runs in 39 innings pitched. He has a mid to upper 90's fastball to go along with a slider that he uses when he's ahead in the count. His 33 strikeouts aren't overly impressive, but nobody will argue his effectiveness.
Clint Hurdle could be the early favorite to win NL Manager of the Year.
In his first year in Pittsburgh, Clint Hurdle has managed to give the franchise some hope for the future. The Pirates, who have had six different managers since their last season with a winning record in 1992, brought in Hurdle to guide this extremely young and inexperienced ball club.
Perhaps they were hoping he could do the same thing he did with the Colorado Rockies in 2007, when he led them to the NL pennant. Nobody could have expected him to turn things around this quickly in Pittsburgh, making Hurdle an early favorite for NL Manager of the Year.
Four opening day starters for the Pirates are currently on the disabled list, including third baseman Pedro Alvarez.
It's amazing what the Pirates have done in the first half of the season with the number of players who have been put on the disabled list. They are currently without four players from their opening day lineup including third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who has been out since May 19, and left fielder Jose Tabata.
The Pirates have a total of ten players on the disabled list, but hope to get some of those guys back after the All-Star break. If Alvarez comes back and hit the ball the way he did at the end of last year, the Pirates will get a major upgrade without having to make a trade.
Jeff Karstens 2.55 ERA is the lowest among starters on the team.
One of the most impressive stats for this years Pirates is their team ERA. It's currently sitting at 3.43, which ranks them eighth in all of baseball. What makes this even more remarkable is that the Pirates have been ranked in the bottom six each of the past four seasons.
The one reason they've been so good I mentioned earlier in the quality starts they've been getting from their starters. Another is because of the effectiveness of their closer Joel Hanrahan who has the lowest ERA on the team at 1.37.
However the one thing I haven't talked about yet is their bullpen who have done a great job getting to the ninth with a lead. Daniel McCutchen leads the group with a 2.44 ERA in 44 innings of work, but nobody has an ERA above 3.50.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the second youngest roster in the majors.
The biggest reason Pirates fans should be excited about the second half of the season is that the team is full of fresh faces. Their is not a single player currently on the roster who was in Pittsburgh in 2004. In fact, the only two players who were there the next year are Paul Maholm and Ryan Doumit.
What this means is that the current players haven't had to endure much lossing as a team. The former players who were used to losing so much were all traded away and given fresh starts. In the meantime, this young group of guys have brought a lot of excitement to the city of Pittsburgh and its fans.
The average age of the team is 27.2, making it the second youngest roster in baseball. Led by young stars like Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker, this Pittsburgh Pirates team is here to prove they belong.
And so far, they have.