Monday, April 02, 2007

The 2007 Pirates Outlook

So we've talked a whole lot about various minutiae that may or may not help the Pirates in 2007, but none of that matters any more because the season is finally upon us. Being the writer of a Pirates blog, I feel encumbered to write some kind of season preview because, well, that's what this thing is for, right? Let's see what I can come up with.

As a fan, I refuse to get myself excited about this team. Yes, it's true that they should probably be better than last year. Maybe that's because of Adam LaRoche. Maybe that's because they were 30-60 before the All-Star break last year and it's really hard to be much worse than that. So why do I refuse to get excited? It's probably a defense mechanism. I used to get excited every year and they're bad every year so I'm giving up on being excited this year.

The problem can be summed up in one word for the Pirates this year: depth. That was all that I meant by the John Wasdin/Don Kelly comment the other day that some people took serious umbrage to in the comments. The ideal starting lineup and rotation isn't perfect as it is; the lineup has some serious black holes in Chris Duffy and Jack Wilson (who we feel the need to bat first and second, ugh) while the rotation success everyone is counting on entirely hinges on four guys getting better- something that does not always happen to Pirate players. Already, the 2007 Pirates are built upon a weak foundation. Look at how much things are shaken up with just the Freddy Sanchez injury. Both Joses are forced into the starting lineup. Don Kelly is on the team. Ronny Paulino will likely bat fifth tomorrow. I don't care if Ronny slugged 4.000 this spring, he didn't crack .400 when it counted last year. Look at the outfield backups, McLouth, Doumit, and Eldred. McLouth has displayed very little discernible baseball skill while in Pittsburgh, Doumit has been unable to stay healthy in his big league career, and Eldred hasn't played outfield since high school and has a swing with a hole the size of Jupiter in it. Considering that Chris Duffy actually starts, there isn't much outfield depth. The rotation is the same way. If someone goes down they're going to be replaced by BP Chacon, whom I choose not to comment on, Sean Burnett, a former prospect who got shelled in AAA this year even if he was perfect in ST this year, and Shane Youman, who's PECOTA comps in BP 2007 I've never heard of save Kelly Wunsch.

Are there things to be excited about if that's what you're looking for? Sure. LaRoche and Bay will make an actually formidable heart of the order. Ronny Paulino looks like he might be putting some of his heft into his swing. Ian Snell is awesome. He, Duke, Maholm, and Gorzo certainly might be very good and make a great foundation of a young rotation. The division will be close. It won't be as bad as last year, but it shouldn't take more than 90 wins to do the trick. Still, I think it'll take the Pirates a miracle to get close to that number. With the exact team they have now (plus Sanchez, minus Kelly) and no major injuries, a TON of things would have to go right to get them that far ahead. I dunno, I keep going back to Wilson and Duffy when I think about what's wrong with this team. It's not necessarily those two because lots of teams have poor hitting center fielders and shortstops, it's the thought process that gets those two where they are. They both start because the front office values something they do that is not easily quantifiable, defense, while ignoring something that is easily quantifiable, offense. In fact, rather than looking at the easy truths about these two on offense, the management just kind of makes stuff up to kid themselves about these two and places them right at the top of the order. It's stupid. It's senseless. It's Pirate baseball.