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Without question, the starters were the reason the Pirates were in contention for as long as they were. The team's batting average hovered under .230 for the first 60 games of the season.
The Pirates are still in fifth place in team ERA (3.67), but that number should continue to increase.
It was painfully obvious that the overachievers would start seeing a decrease in production.
Paul Maholm's home run to fly ball ratio was the best it's ever been through the first half of the season. Some of those fly balls were bound to leave the park and they certainly have.
Jeff Karstens stranded a preposterous 88 percent of runners, a number nearly 20 percent higher than the league average. Eventually, runners were going to touch home and they certainly have.
Despite a poor offense, Kevin Correia was receiving more 6 runs a game in run support through mid-July. That number might be even more ridiculous than Karstens' stranded percentage. Correia should have tested his luck in Vegas while he had the chance. The help is gone and Correia is back to being the average pitcher he is. Remember, this guy had an ERA over 5.00 last year.
All five starters have been on pace or close to exceed their career highs in innings pitched in a season.
Manager Clint Hurdle had to go to a six-man rotation. That is something he does not believe in. James McDonald should have explained to Hurdle how he feels when he gets five full days of rest between starts.
McDonald is 6-2 with an ERA almost four runs lower in starts which he has five days of rest compared to four.
The future of the starters does not look promising. Correia, Maholm and probably Karstens are not long-term answers. McDonald and Charlie Morton possibly are. Brad Lincoln or a veteran deadline pickup would have looked nice in the rotation.
The system's only legitimate starters have incredibly high ceilings. First-round selections Jameson Tailon and Gerrit Cole (thankfully signed) are at least two years away.
How much can the Pirates count on them in 2013? Will McDonald and Morton still be reliable in 2013, 2014 and 2015 when the two young studs finally hit their groove?
A lot of transactions will take place over the next few years, but the short and long-term diagnosis is not all that promising.