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Pirates: How high can they go?
May 19, 2012 - Ray Eckenrode
It's very easy to be very down on the Pirates at this point in time ... and deservedly so. Aside from the starting pitching, the team has been horrendous in just about every other facet of the game. But there's the silver lining. As terrible as the Pirates have been, they're three games below .500 and in third place in a weak division where the Cardinals are just one more key injury away from coming back to the pack.
So here are a few reasons to think Pittsburgh just might be able to turn this around:
+ The team has already dropped more fly balls, failed to get more bunts down and run into more outs on the basepaths than even a bad team does in an entire season. Maybe that will continue and the team will be historically bad, or maybe it will even out, the way things tend to in MLB, over the remainder of the season.
+ Along the same lines, maybe Nate McLouth, Clint Barmes and Casey McGehee are finished and will continue their Mendoza-like seasons. But if they're not, you'd think each might hit .270 to .280 the rest of the way to get them back in the .240 to .250 range by season's end. Really, only Andrew McCutchen (in a good way) and Pedro Alvarez (in a frustratingly streaky way) are hitting the way you'd expect. It appears to us that the Pirates offensive woes have more to due with the mental aspect of hitting than the talent involved. That's something that's fixable and could turn on a dime. The same way bad play is contagious, so is good play.
+ The relief trio of Juan Cruz, Jason Grilli and Joel Hanrahan have shown fantastic stuff but very little command, flirting with disaster in just about every outing so far. But all are tested vets and you'd think there's a chance they'll get better, not worse, as the season progresses.
+ There's enough pitching depth (in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis) to handle potential flameouts by Kevin Correia and Charlie Morton or an injury-prone season from Erik Bedard.
Do not get us wrong. There are plenty of reasons to think it's only going to get worse for the Pirates and we're not saying a turnaround is likely. We're just saying there's some real evidence to suggest it's possible. Look no further than last May and June, when Pittsburgh played so well. If they can continue to hang around and perhaps find that form in July and August this year, it might not be a lost season after all.