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A look at the competition: The Pittsburgh Pirates

March 19, 2008

so, this preview series will start with the annual cellar dwellers of the nl central, the buccos. I don’t mean to be mean, but they have been the last team in the standings at the end of the season for as long as I have been a cardinals fan.

it’s really said to see such a wonderful organization with a rich history and a ballpark as beautiful as PNC go to waist. hopefully, they will get better season after season. maybe I’m speaking too soon; you never know, the cardinals might end up in last place at the end of this season…gulp.

2007 record: 68-94, sixth place in the nl central

IN: chris gomez, evan meek (rule 5 draft pick), phil dumatrait, josh wilson, kevin thompson

OUT: shawn chacon, tony armas, salomon torres, josh phelps, shane youman, cesar izturis

projected starting rotation: ian snell, tom gorzelanny, paul maholm, matt morris, zach duke

Projected lineup: nyjer morgan, jack wilson, freddy sanchez, adam laroche, jason bay, xavier nady, jose bautista, ronny paulino

the pirates lineup has the potential to be solid of not spectacular. morgan seems like a prototypical leadoff man with his lack of “pop” (1 homerun) and high obp, at least good enough to be a decent leadoff hitter, .359. jack wilson is a guy that has a good obp (.350) but does not walk much and strikes out just a little more than he walks. he has some pop (12 homers last season) and is a known cardinal killer. then, you got the versatile sanchez who can almost play any position on the field and look good doing it. in 2007, he lead his team in average (.304), hits (183), doubles (42, tied with laroche) and triples (4). so, he is one of the best if not the best hitter they got. laroche bats cleanup; this guy had a horrible start last season, at least the first couple of months last season. he rebounded to the tune of 21 homers and a .345 obp. he needs to be better powerwise because he is their best left handed power hitter and they need him to come through big time if they want to even sniff the playoffs. then, batting 5th is jason bay, who had a down year last season with 21 homers and 84 rbis and a.327 obp. he usually drives in a 100 rbis and hits above .300 and smacks 25-30 homers at least. I’m thinking he’ll bounce back this season. nady did pretty well last season with the pirates mainly as a starting outfielder, but I think he is at his best as a supersub. bautista is an average third baseman and paulino is a good hitting catcher that needs to improve his defense a little bit; he is no yadi I know that much.

the rotation looks to be solid but heavily lefthanded; three of the starters are lefties. god knows if the pirates played the cards everyday with that rotation, they would win at least three out of every five games they participated in. snell is the ace of the rotation with the best “stuff”. gorzelanny had a breakout year last season to the tune of a 3.88 era and a 14-10 record (he really helped my fantasy team). maholm is a decent lefty that throws about 175 innings a season and puts up a 4.5 to a 5.0 era; he is a 4th or 5th starter in good rotations. matty mo is what he is, a declining veteran, and he is fading fast. he gets out to a fast start in the first half and then falls flat on his face the second half of the season. I wish him the best, but last season was not pretty. duke is the third lefty who showed what he was capable of during his rookie season but has regressed since then. maybe he has been figured out or that year was just an abberation; we’ll have to let the season play out to see how he does.

Bullpen: their closer will probably be matt capps. the lefty setup man would be osoria and righty marte. other than that, I got no clue; I guess that’s what spring training is for.

2008 guesstimated record: 71-91, 6th in the nl central. same ol’ buccos until they can make a huge free agent signing/trade. to make a team that can compete for the wild card and/or division title, I believe you need to have the right mix of free agent veterans sprinkled in with the young guys you develop from your system. I don’t think the bucs have that yet and so I say the old proverb “maybe next year”.

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