Improved roster depth could drive Pirates' fortunes deep into season
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).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- Pirates notebook: Burnett continues to progress, amps up to 95-pitch simulated game
- Young guns lead way into pivotal Pirates-Cardinals series
- Liriano struggles as Brewers complete sweep of Pirates
- Pirates notebook: McCutchen takes NL Player of the Month for 4th time
- Pirates, Marlins in talks to play 2016 game in Puerto Rico
- Snider happy to return to new role with Pirates
- Locke struggles again early, Pirates lose again in Milwaukee
- Pirates notebook: Left-side lineup intrigue continues
- Gameday: Pirates at Brewers, Sept. 3, 2015
- Two wild-card format hurting Pirates in short term
- Patience serves as virtue amid prospect Glasnow’s quest for majors