Can The Pirates Contend Long-Term?
The Pittsburgh Pirates were the feel good story of baseball in 2013, as they were able to get back to the playoffs for the first time since the early 1990s. They rattled off 94 wins in the regular season, and then beat the Cincinnati Reds in the playoffs before falling to the St. Louis Cardinals. Led by recently named National League MVP Andrew McCutchen, the team is set up for the future, right? Not so fast.
For starters, a lot of things had to go right for the Pirates to contend in the tough National League Central. Getting career seasons from several pitchers helped. Francisco Liriano rebounded from several injuries in his past to go 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA for starters. He won’t put up those fantasy baseball numbers again in 2014, and neither will some of their other pitchers. Someone will have to pick up the slack.
Right now, the biggest issue for the Pirates is they don’t have an ace. Some would even argue that they don’t have a reliable #2 starter either. Liriano and AJ Burnett are too shaky, and guys like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon are still considered to be about a year away from dominance. If one of those guys step up, they could compete.
The lineup is in better shape, as they have guys like Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker and Starling Marte surrounding McCutchen in the lineup. All four of those guys are thought of highly not only on the Pirates, but in fantasy baseball leagues as well. That is a strong core to go with, but remember, the Reds and Cardinals figure to be contenders as well in 2014.
One thing working in Pittsburgh’s favor is they can take a small step back and still be a playoff contender. Winning 85 to 90 games next season would not be considered a failure if they get into the playoffs again. The road back won’t be easy in their division, but the Pirates still should at least be in the hunt.