Could Pirates See First .500 Season in 17 Years?

Gary G.Correspondent IMay 5, 2009

PITTSBURGH - APRIL 13:  Zach Duke #57 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches during the Opening Day game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on April 13, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

1992—A familiar year in the Steel City. No, not just because the Penguins defeated the Blackhawks in four games to win the Stanley Cup, but because it was the last time the Pirates finished a season above .500.

The 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates went 96-66 finishing first in the National League East, a 25-year old Tim Wakefield was making his debut in the majors, and Barry Bonds was noticeably thinner.

Seventeen years later, the Bucs are still in shambles, but things are looking up.

The average age of this team is 26.4, putting them just below the Marlins team who currently lead the Majors with the youngest talent in the league at an average age of 26.2.

With a pair of southpaws leading the way at the top of their rotation in Paul Maholm and Zach Duke, the Pirates are currently hovering around .500 to start the 2009 season at 12-13, 25 games into the season.

In six starts, Maholm is 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA, while Duke leads the pitching staff with a 2.21 ERA and a 3-2 record. Ian Snell, Ross Ohlendorf, and Jeff Karstens round out the rest of the rotation.

Closer Matt Capps had a fantastic April, going 5 for 5 in save opportunities with a 1.48 ERA. May hasn't been too great for him yet, as he has given up six earned runs in 2.0 innings with a loss and blown save.

After getting the opportunity to start full-time in left field, Nyjer Morgan took advantage of it and it showed. Morgan hit .307 with six stolen bases, 16 runs scored and 11 runs batted in during the month of April. Morgan provides the Pirates with a solid source of speed atop the lineup every night.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez is currently in the top 10 in the National League in batting average, with a solid .330 to begin the season.

Centerfielder Nate McLouth picked right up where he left off last season, showing solid pop with the bat with four homers, 16 runs batted in and a .306 average to show for it.

When the Pirates decided to trade the likes of Xavier Nady, Damaso Marte and Jason Bay last year, they acquired a whirl of talent in return, bringing back outfield prospect Jose Tabata, starting pitchers Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, Bryan Morris and Dan McCutchen, third baseman Andy LaRoche, relief pitcher Craig Hansen, and outfielder Brandon Moss.

The Pirates have a nice little thing going for them so far this year and things could be looking up in Pittsburgh. With a very young team and a great amount of talent, could we finally be looking at an 81 win team?


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