Hey, for once there's a reason to watch an All-Star game (7:30 on Fox); the Bucs actually have some players on the team this year. None are starters, though Cutch made a pretty good late run at claiming a spot, but they're all deserving this season; no pity picks for Pittsburgh this time around.
The All-Stars are:
Andrew McCutchen: Cutch is in his third ASG, and is firmly established as one of the league's elite. He's hitting .302/10/49 with a 132 OPS+, and is improving in all areas - he's set for his best base stealing season, and his UZR is at an all time high of 6.7. And at the age of 26, the best is yet to come.
Pedro Alvarez: Pedro's is living up to his draft status as a big bopper and is the only true Pirate threat to lose a baseball every at-bat in the lineup. He's establishing himself as a high K, high homer guy (24 HR, 32.6% K) with a pretty good glove; his UZR is 2.1, the first time it's been on the positive side. Like Cutch, he's 26 and should be heading into his prime.
Jason Grilli: He accepted a couple shillings less to stay in Pittsburgh and become the closer; looks like a pretty good decision all the way around. His 29 saves lead MLB, and his 1.99 ERA isn't a sabermetric anomaly; his FIP is 1.34, xFIP 2.08 and SIERA 1.47. Tack on 13.9/K per nine, after 13.8 last year, and you have a dominator who's signed through 2014.
Mark Melancon: The former Astro closer and "who he?" part of the Hanny deal has rode his cutter to prominence among the predators in the Shark Tank. He's not quite so sabermetrically in sync as Grilli, but it's tough to support an 0.87 ERA - his FIP is 1.62, xFIP 2.05, and SIERA 2.88, not of which is shabby. Melancon is 28 and will be entering arbitration next season, so he's well under team control.
Jeff Locke: The lefty went from keeping Kyle McPherson's seat warm to an All Star in a matter of weeks. He's 8-2/2.15, and only a little stiffness in the back (wait til he gets to be GW's age!) will keep him out of AS action. He's the most despised of the sabermetric gang - his strikeouts are low, walks high, and BABIP absurd (.228), especially for a groundball guy. He may be due for some regression, but out guess is his command will keep guys from squaring up too often, and his low HR rate should hold up. Locke should be the most interesting of the Pirate staff to follow through the dog days as he tries to establish his cred. The 25 year old is under team control, by our count, for five seasons after this year.
The best part is that were a couple of other guys in the conversation. Francisco Liriano, who missed a month with a broken arm, and Russell Martin, probably the #3 catcher in the NL, were both in the mix, and will be Buccos through next season. The other was Starling Marte, whose day may come before too long, and the 24 year old is under team control for the long term.
The All-Star game is a good barometer of a team's health, and for the first time since the early nineties, the Pirates finally have enough talent to make the All-Star break relevant.