I know what you are saying by now. Probably something along the lines of: “Time to get the second half started and the trade deadline over with and to see if the Pittsburgh Pirates can make it to the postseason.”
The best way to try and forecast a second half is by looking back at the first half and take note of what made the team successful, where could some of that regress and where the team was weaker and could make progress that will balance things out. In the first half of the season, the Pirates had one of the best pitching staffs in all of Major League Baseball.
Their starters have been solid and the bullpen has been one of the best around. Everyone knows the workload of the bullpen and the starters not going deep in games. We’ve started to see a bit of the trend of starters going deeper into games a bit before the break.
The hitting on the team hasn’t seen the usual suspects having fantastic seasons but rather, it seems that someone different contributed to the team’s success each night. While Andrew McCutchen has been just OK by his standards, Pedro Alvarez has 24 home runs already, putting him on target to finish with around 40-45 bombs on the season. Garrett Jones has been pretty quiet most of the season, but Starling Marte has been fantastic while some others – Russell Martin and Jordy Mercer – have gotten big hits in clutch situations
Here is a look at the predicted starting lineup for the second half:
Marte is batting .291 with nine HRs, 20 doubles and eight triples. This is a very nice line and he stands to stay pat with these numbers for the remainder of the season. Predicted Final Stats: .290 AVG/.365 OBP/16 HR
Jose Tabata is batting .293 with a .351 OBP. Tabata is fighting for his job and we would love to see his power numbers increase but he seems more of a gap hitter at this stage. Predicted Final Stats: .270/.350/5 HR
McCutchen is hitting at a nice clip for a .302 average and .376 OBP, he’s not striking out a ton although I would suggest he’s not hitting in clutch situations as normal and his power numbers are down with only 10 HRs. Predicted Final Stats: .310/.375/22 HR
Alvarez has had a nice first half to the season despite starting off terribly in the first month or so. He is batting .250 with 24 HRs and 62 RBIs on the season. Pedro has always been a very hot or very cold hitter to this point and the best we can hope for is that he hits around .250 but with a ton of power. Predicted Final Stats .240/.333/42 HR
Martin started off the season strong at the plate but has recently been on a scary decline and possibly moving him out of the second or fifth spot may help. Presently, Martin is hitting .239 with eight HRs and 34 RBIs, but he also sports a .346 OBP which suggests a high walk rate. Martin could stick at the No. 2 hole in the lineup but not at No. 5. Final Predicted Stats: .250/.365/17 HR
Neil Walker should be the No. 5 or 6 hitter in this lineup but he’s been pretty bad all season at the plate. He’s shown flashes of games where he would get a chunk of hits but he’s only batting .244 with six HRs, 11 doubles and three triples. Final Predicted Stats: .265/.375/12 HR
Jones is probably the most frustrating Pirate. Last season, Jones hit 27 HRs and had a nice batting average to boot. This season, Jones is batting .253 and has only eight homers. Here isthe guy the Pirates need to catch fire the rest of the season. If Jones could increase his average to .270 and finish around 20 HRs, he will seriously help the potential regression from some other guys. Final Predicted Stats: .260/.330/20 HR
Mercer has kind of been the darling for the Pirates this season, supplanting Clint Barmes as the everyday starting shortstop but also providing a nice boost to the offense and some clutch hitting. Presently, he is hitting .257 with a .309 OBP, 8 HRs, eight doubles and one triple. Final Predicted Stats: .250/.340/8 HR
The bench of the Pirates definitely could use a boost and if you’ve read my past articles, you would know that the Pirates can get stronger on the bench by subtracting some of the weaknesses currently sitting there. Brandon Inge is the guy most likely to be designated for assignment. Barmes could also be removed from the team while hoping Gaby Sanchez can start hitting again.
Travis Snider is still too young and has too much talent to give up on at this point – think Jose Bautista – and I’m still in favor of dropping Mike McKenry from the team and bringing up Tony Sanchez but I’m not sure it will happen. The Bucs do seem to have a rotation going with that last bench spot, currently held by Josh Harrison. We have seen extra relievers brought in with the 25th spot on the team, with Harrison, Alex Presley, Phil Irwin, Ryan Reid, Jared Hughes, Duke Welker, Brandon Cumpton and more players in and out.
While the Pirates could see some players slow down quite a bit, several other players really could step it up and provide a boost for the team. If the pitching does regress a bit, the hitting needs to step it up and score more runs than the pitching staff gives up. That’s Bob Walk-type advice, and he’s correct in stating the obvious.
However, the Pirates will be watched closely all season long because of the past two late-year collapses. Don’t be surprised if the Pirates finish 5-9 from now to the end of the month but you know you will hear about the collapse the entire time. Here is a suggestion for the Buccos: go 9-5 over the next 14 and shut all the doubters up and get yourselves ready for the playoffs. After all, it’s only been 20 years of waiting for this type of season, let’s not make it another 20 until we can have this discussion again.
LET’S GO BUCS! Predicted Record for 2013: 90-72 (second in National League Central, first in Wild Card)