Hey, the tale of two seasons has come to an end. The Bucs did improve a fairly impressive 15 games over last season's 57-102 debacle, so that's a plus. They did it mainly by pitching, as the staff improved its ERA from 5.00 to 4.05, and that's a heck of an improvement.
The hitting, though, stagnated. This year's lumber company scored 610 runs while hitting .244; last year's crew did just a tad worse at 587 runs and .242 BA. That's a surprise, considering the rep of Clint Hurdle as a hitting guru, and begs the question of "is it the talent or the coaching?" All we know is that coaches don't bat, if that gives you a clue as to what side of the fence we're on.
Too bad the Pirates floundered during the second half, when the innings caught up to the arms and the injuries/grind caught up to the position players. We anticipated a young team would steadily improve throughout the year, not start off like gangbusters and then fade like Milli Vanilli.
They did answer a couple of questions. McCutch and The Pittsburgh Kid were solid and look as if they'll be consistent, real-deal performers. Jose Tabata and Alex Presley solidified the outfield. Charlie Morton and James McDonald appear to be competent mid-level starters, and both should get better. Hanny was lights-out.
After that, well...lotsa things to sort out, and that's what we'll be discussing now that the year's done. The coaching, the drafting, free agents coming and going, the 40 man roster, position-by-position critiques, help down on the farm and all the other topics so dear to the hot stove league.
Oh, the game? Pittsburgh got its usual bums rush outta Milwaukee, losing 7-3. The Brew Crew chased Jeff Locke after four innings, scoring five runs thanks to three homers and clinching home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
And it was a big night for baseball fans in general. Not only did the Brewers finish a nose ahead of the D-Backs, but the Cards slipped into the wild-card over the Braves; so much for the "Central is so weak" cliche. Tampa Bay took the last spot over the Red Sox. There's no surer sign of a competitive season than to have people watching the scoreboard for the results of the final game.
We'd like to see Pittsburgh get in on that scoreboard watching stuff, too, and for a little longer than mid-July.