Here is my Q&A with Pirates blogger Brian McElhinny of Raise the Jolly Roger to try and get a sense of how Pittsburgh fans feel about their team heading into tonight’s game against the Mets:
Vinny Cartiglia: Even though the Pirates are a couple of games below .500, they are only 3 games behind the Division leading Cardinals. Thus far, are Pirates fans happy with the play of the club? And, do they believe the team can finish above .500 for the first time since 1992?
Brian McElhinny: All things considered, I think fans have to be OK with where the Pirates are in the standings today. The NL Central has been terrible and the Bucs have been able to hang close despite facing a brutal schedule in the early part of the year. That said, the season has still been quite frustrating up to this point because of the absurd disparity between the Pirates’ pitching and their offense. The pitching has been phenomenal (3rd in NL in runs allowed, 4th in ERA entering Sunday) and the offense has been beyond abysmal (last–by a lot–in almost every significant category). If they even had a league-average offense–or even slightly below average–they’d be above .500 and possibly in first place. Instead, it still seems like .500 will be difficult to accomplish unless the pitching can avoid regression and the offense can pick it up. That’s possible but doesn’t seem all that likely, and fans are especially wary after the Pirates built our hopes up for three months last year and then collapsed.
Vinny Cartiglia: There Pirates have some nice young talent on their club. Am I right to believe that fans are happy about what the future could hold for this team?
Brian McElhinny: You are, but only to a degree. Andrew McCutchen is as good as it gets, but besides him the Pirates really have nothing in terms of a bat they can really count on for years to come. Pedro Alvarez has shown flashes of brilliance, but hasn’t been able to put it together for more than a few weeks at a time. Neil Walker has emerged as a good player, but he probably won’t be anything more than a slightly-above average second baseman. On the mound, James McDonald is looking like a potential top-of-the-rotation guy this year and the Pirates’ management has shown the ability to build a strong rotation and bullpen. The Bucs also have some top draft pick pitchers in the low minors (Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon) that have performed up to expectations so far, but they’re going to need to find more hitters by the time those two reach Pittsburgh. There aren’t many encouraging hitting prospects anywhere in the system, and the major league team doesn’t have much beyond McCutchen.
To get an on-field take of the Pirates before the start of this three-game series, watch this video Q&A with Charlie Wilmoth of BucsDugout.com: