Improved roster depth could drive Pirates' fortunes deep into season
Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano delivers against the Brewers during the first inning Thursday, May 16, 2013, at PNC Park.
Photo by Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Just beyond the season's quarter pole, the Pirates are on pace to win 96 games. The club is off to its best start since 1992, which marked the last time the Pirates won more games than they lost.
The club has teased before — it faded down the stretch in each of the past two seasons — but might this year different? Is this season's start sustainable?
There is reason to believe this year could be different. The principle reason to believe another late-summer collapse can be avoided is rooted in depth.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said this team has the deepest lineup of his tenure. Starling Marte has developed into a dynamic presence atop the lineup. Russell Martin has given the team rare punch at catcher. The club also added Travis Snider and Gaby Sanchez before last season's trade deadline, allowing Hurdle to strengthen lineups via platoons.
“Our lineup is extended better than it's ever been before,” Hurdle said. “We have a guy up top that is doing some fantastic things in setting innings up and a couple in the middle driving in runs. So you have to have that in play.”
Unlike a year ago when center fielder Andrew McCutchen carried the lineup for weeks at a time, offensive production has been distributed evenly. And if McCutchen recaptures his form of last season when he was an MVP candidate — he has three straight multi-hit games, raising his average to .281 — the offense has the potential to become more dynamic.
“We have more pieces to the puzzle; it's something we didn't have on a consistent basis last year,” McCutchen said. “We have a catcher who can hit for power and average, a leadoff guy who can lead off, get on base and score runs. They are two things we didn't have last year.”
Perhaps more important than the lineup depth are the starting pitching options the Pirates have gathered to weather a 162-game season.
The Pirates begin their series versus the Cubs on Tuesday tied with Arizona for second in the NL in ERA (3.35), trailing only St. Louis (3.14).
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.