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Sports Illustrated came out with their 2009 MLB predictions yesterday, and if you're a Pirate fan, you might want to cover your ears. Why? Because they're guessing your Buccos will finish a league-worst 64-98 while setting the record for consecutive losing seasons. Which means we'll have some history to look forward to in 2009 at the very least.

The author of their Pirate preview, Albert Chen, zeroes in on a few individuals crucial to the team's success in 2009: new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, who will try to turn an erratic pitching staff into a strength, and the Brothers LaRoche, who alternate between starting the year slow (Adam) and ending the year slow (Andy).

The Pirates' 2009 opening-day lineup features as many players who hit above .300 last year as hit below .200 last year: one of each (Ryan Doumit, .318, and Andy LaRoche, .166). They have just one starter with a sub-4.00 ERA in 2008 (Paul Maholm, 3.71). They will be sorely lacking in the longball department. And as ESPN: the Magazine recently pointed out, their defense is weak, too. So basically, all they need is better pitching, hitting, power, and defense, and they'll be much improved.

All kidding aside, I like the direction the team is headed in for a few years down the road, but I can also understand the other side of that argument. You know, the impatience with the whole "16 years and counting" thing. Banking on Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen is very similar to that nucleus of uberprospects Chad "Walks on Water" Hermansen and J.J. Davis we were sold on about 10 years ago. Or the future pitching staff anchored by Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, and John Van Benschoten. Pirate fans have heard some variation of this story before. Excuse us for being at least a little jaded. For the eternal optimists who are appalled at said jaded fans, you need a reality check. People have every right to be turned off by the past management gaffes of this franchise. And contrary to popular belief, being upset with the team is not a capital offense as a fan. That would be apathy, which is the official last nail in a team's fanbase. No one cared what the Pittsburgh XPlosion's record was. No one was outraged when they couldn't make things work with Kevin Pittsnogle. Because people just didn't care. Now, they're not around. And no one cares that they left.

But I digress. Back to the prospects. While Alvarez is as close to a can't-miss as you will ever find, the fact remains that at least some possibility exists that he won't pan out, such as his suffering a major injury. His mere presence in a Pirate uniform in a few years guarantees nothing. Especially because (at least the last time I checked), he's not a dominant pitcher, and you'll also need a few of those to succeed in this sport. One or two stars alone does not automatically clinch a pennant. If you don't believe me, ask the Yankees. But your odds of winning are certainly better if guys like Alvarez and McCutchen play up to their potential.

So is SI's outlook depressing? Sure it is. But it's probably realistic. This is not a 100-win team. This is not a 90-win team, or even an 81-win team. How far they fall below that magical number will be the ongoing story of the year, for historical purposes. I'm hoping all these prognosticators are wrong, but if they're not, I'd like to think the misery on some level will end in the near future.

SI's 2009 MLB Scouting Reports []
SI's 2009 MLB Scouting Reports: Pirates []

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HotDog_Zanzabar said...

Nice post. You hit it out of the park, which apparently the Pirates won't be doing much of

Unknown said...

Not that I disagree with SI's assessment, but they've had a history of low-balling our teams in their preseason issues. Here's to that magical 17th season.

BurressWithButterflywings said...

that is 2 more wins that i am willing to give them

Koz said...

Wait, the Xplosion are (is?) defunct?