It's fairly obvious that, when you compare the 2011 Pirates to the 1979 World Series Champion Pirates, the current edition has a long way to go before becoming true contenders.
The 2011 version, led by Clint Hurdle, was able to stay in contention through the end of July by playing within their capabilities, utilizing pitch to contact and defense to keep opponents off the board and playing small ball to manufacture their own runs. Beset by injuries and stretched to their limits, their weaknesses finally caught up with them. By August 20, the Pirates found themselves 14 and a half games out of first place.
The current Pirates team placed three All-Stars on the 34-man roster: starting pitcher Kevin Correia, relief pitcher Joel Hanrahan and centerfielder Andrew McCutchen, although Hanrahan and McCutchen were selected as replacement players.
The pitching staff is now 13th in the Majors with a 3.72 ERA. Struggling offensively, the 2011 Bucs are 26th with a .244 batting average, far from championship material.
The 1979 Pirates were a completely different animal...
Known as "The Lumber Company," the Pirates hit .272 and led the league in slugging (.416) and OPS (.746) and total bases (2353), and were second in hits (1541), home runs (148), and RBI (710).
Pirate pitchers were third in the league in ERA (3.41) and WHIP (1.291), second in strikeouts (904) and No. 1 in saves (52).
Led by Cap'n Willie Stargell, the Pirates won the N.L. East by two games over the Montreal Expos, then defeated the Cincinnati Reds three games to none for their ninth National League Pennant.
The "We Are Family" Battlin' Bucs rallied from a three-games-to-one deficit to defeat the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 and win their fifth World Series.
Stargell shared the NL MVP award with St. Louis Cardinal Keith Hernandez, the only time there was ever a tie in the vote. Stargell was also NLCS MVP and World Series MVP.
Amazingly, the Bucs were able to place just one player on the 28-man All-Star team, right-fielder Dave Parker. Parker was MVP at the Mid-Summer Classic, which was played at the Seattle Kingdome. Ironically it was defense that won the award for Parker, as he threw out runners at third base and home plate to help preserve the victory. The National League won 7-6 that year.
Between Stargell and Parker, the Pirates won all four of the possible MVP awards for the National League in 1979.
So are the 2011 Pirates truly just a couple of players away from contending? Or do the needs run a little deeper?
Here's a position-by-position comparison between the current Pirates and the star-studded 1979 World Champion Pirates, which shows exactly how far they have to go to be true contenders.