Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Don't Hit The Panic Button...Yet

OK, the Bucs are on pace to win 65 games. But we wouldn't hit the panic button quite yet; there's still plenty of time for that.

People tend to forget that this is a team that was projected to finish in the 75 win range, and they've just went through a pretty brutal stretch of games. Pittsburgh has played five series. Two were against division leading squads, and overall the five are 49-35 as of this morning, a .583 winning %.

The Bucs, who we also knew were gonna be challenged offensively, have gone up against the NL's top arms. Pittsburgh has faced the number #3, 4, 5 and 7th ranked staffs so far. (Washington and the Pirates are the NL's two top ERA clubs, at 2.34 & 2.63) .

As predicted, the Pirate pitching has been good and the hitting hasn't. Both will regress as the season goes on. Pittsburgh isn't likely to finish 2012 with a 2.63 ERA, nor with a .202 BA and 300 runs scored. The five weeks beginning on May 1st will tell a better tale.

Not only will we have a better sample size after two months, but Pittsburgh gets its first - and only - stretch of first-half NL Central games. During that span, they'll play three games against every team in the division, and nine against Cincinnati. The non-division foes are Washington, Detroit, Florida, and the Mets, who are kinda bundled in the middle of May.

Now we do know a couple of things. The bullpen looks like it will hold up again, and the rotation is the deepest it's been since the Coonelly/Huntington era, even with the young guys still feeling their way and Erik Bedard looking for his fastball. With the exception of Garrett Jones at first, the defense has been strong, although Clint Barmes has had some early year problems.

The hitting is a potential black hole. The team doesn't have much power, and the OBP's of the back half of the order promise a lot of 1-2-3 innings. They're also at the bottom of the pack with walks; a quick course in plate patience and pitch recognition should be high on Clint Hurdle's syllabus.

But it's too early to be shoveling dirt on the team. As we said, regression will begin to rear its head, and by the early days of June, we should have a better grasp of just what kind of team the Pirates have this year. To us, the 75 win projection still looks solid.

No comments: