Monday, April 20, 2009

A Look At The Pirates First Two Weeks

Let's take a look at the Bucco's first 2 weeks of the season. If you are a real baseball fan and not one of these guys predicting the Bucs to win the World Series, then you have to be happy. If you are a real baseball fan and not one of these guys that rip the organization; despite not knowing ten players in the organization, then you have to be real happy. I'm not saying the Pirates organization never deserves criticism, but this isn't one of those times.

The Pirates will likely be under .500 for a record seventeenth season and the first couple weeks of the season have offered up the proof, but it has also provided some glimpses that things may turn around. The last thing I wanted to have this season was HOPE, I'd prefer that Neil Hunnington stick to his plan and try to build a winner, but there is a glimpse of hope.

Reason number one the Bucs will struggle is the inconsistencies of the offense. They are a very light hitting team with very little power. Those types of teams struggle at times. It is very hard to manufacture runs every game, without the threat of the long ball. Taking a look at the first 12 games, this shows up a lot. The Bucs opened the season with an 11 hit attack in a win and then followed it up with only 5 hits in a loss. This trend pops up often so far: 17 in a win, then 1 in a loss, then 12 in a win , then 3 in a loss, then 14 in a win. Granted it's only 2 weeks, but this is something that could keep going for a while. Only ten homers through twelve games isn't awful, but mostly they have all come in wins.

Flip the coin and the Bucs have shown they can hit the ball at times. Nyjer Morgan has been a surprise at the top of the order. If he can continue to get on and use his legs, the Bucs don't need the long ball. Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson are off to decent starts and you can boo them all you want, but the Laroche brothers aren't doing that bad. Before the Braves series, Adam was swinging the bat well and after an awful start, Andy has picked it up. Keep him in the lineup and he should be fine. The bench is better and so is the team.

On the hill, what can you say about Paul Maholm except he has been terrific. He has always had guts on the mound, but credit new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan with making him more efficient. He's not flashy. He just pitches to contact and gets batters out. We have also seen Ian Snell, Zach Duke and Ross Ohlendorf give good outings. If those 3 can give the team quality starts every 2 out of 3 starts, then the rotation won't be that bad. That's a big IF though. We will know that answer at the end of May.

The weakness of this team is the bullpen, but even they haven't been that bad. Look, if I would have told you the Pirates would have the best ERA in the majors after 12 games, then you would have laughed. It's a very small sample, but it shows that they are doing something right. Kerrigan has had an impact, These guys are throwing inside more and getting people out. Can it continue? Probably no, but why not? If the Cubs and Cardinals don't pull away from the pack in the NL Central, then there is a chance that the Bucs can hang around.

One thing other than wins and losses that has impressed me the most, is the leadership that has suddenly shown up on this team. Maholm and Ryan Doumitt has taken on a leadership role that just hasn't been there lately.

There are way too many IF'S and too many questions in my mind for this team to compete this year, but I definitely thinks things are headed in the right direction. They do have some talent in the farm system and if Hunnington sticks to his guns and continues to add to it, we soon may see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So next time that you decide to take the easy route and bash the Pirates, try taking the time to actually watch them and maybe you will like what you see.

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