Pittsburgh Pirates: Why pitching will determine NL Central Crown

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All season, much has been made of the woeful offense of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Yet while the Pirates’ bats deserve all the criticism that they have received at this point of the season, it will be the Bucs’ pitching staff that will determine whether or not they will win the National League Central, or whether they will have to settle for a one-game Wild Card playoff.

Aug 24, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Francisco Liriano (47) prepares to deliver a pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning at AT

And that’s not just the case for the Pirates as they same thing applies to both the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals.

All three teams get ready to begin the stretch runs with some questions in their pitching staff, but pitching wins this time of year and whichever staff performs the best will walk away as division champs.

Let’s take a look at how each team stacks up against the other.

Pittsburgh Pirates: While the Bucs certainly have their issues scoring runs, they have still won 76 games and are still tied for the division lead entering Monday. The Bucs’ abysmal offense is what it is, but they have proven that if they pitch well they can score just enough runs to win games. I don’t expect that to change.

The Bucs still have 12 games remaining against both the Reds and Cardinals, including closing the season by playing six of their final nine against Cincinnati. What that means is if the Bucs split against both St. Louis and the Reds and take advantage of the rest of their schedule in between, they should be just fine.

Of the three teams, the Pirates may have the least amount of questions in their pitching staff, but there still are a couple of questions that need accounted for, most notably how  much can Clint Hurdle count on youngsters Jeff Locke and Gerrit Cole down the stretch?

The Bucs have the best team ERA in the National league at 3.19 and have the best bullpen of the three teams. Dubbed the “Shark Tank,” the Pirates bullpen should be a weapon down the stretch. Add to the fact that Jason Grilli is set to return in September and the Bucs best weapon is about to get even stronger.

I’m fairly confident that the likes of A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton will give the Bucs an opportunity to win every time they take the ball.

For the Pirates to win the division Cole and Locke must do the same and that is something that appears easier said than done.

However if the two youngsters step up and answer the bell, I like the Pirates chances.

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Topics: Adam Wainwright, Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals

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  • john weitzman

    I have to disagree with you on the Cardinals bull pen being there weakest point. If anything is weak its the rotation after Wainwright , Kelly and Miller, Lynn is very unpredictable and Lyons is no better than Westbrook !

    These are the stats for the Bull Pen
    * On May 12 the Cardinals had a glaring bullpen ERA of 5.17.
    * Since the end of May the bullpen ERA is 3.12. But that’s misleading; if you subtract the aborted start by Shelby Miller “hit by ball” against the Dodgers on Aug. 7 — weird circumstances that led to Jake Westbrook and others getting strafed for 13 runs in relief — the bullpen ERA is 2.79.

    * In August — minus the fluke Aug. 7 game — the bullpen ERA is 2.04.

    * Since that Aug. 7 calamity the bullpen ERA is 2.16.

    * Since Aug. 8 the rookies have accounted for 48.1 of the overall 58.1 bullpen innings.

    * Siegrist, Maness and Rosenthal — have a 1.98 ERA since the end of May, with 105 strikeouts and 12 double plays in 99.2 innings. Mujica with 35 saves

    • Riley

      Ditto

    • Matt Shetler

      I love the Cardinals bullpen arms and they have been performing great and maybe I should have said that the rotation was the weak point. But basically my point is that there are still a lot of young arms pitching in crucial games and while I feel the Cards will be fine in terms of their pen, pitching deep in Sept. is something most of them haven’t done before as the minor league season would have been long over. If one or two would falter, it wouldn’t be the first time that young pitchers have faltered down the stretch. Again I think they will be fine, but there are a lot of young arms on that team and at minimum it is worth keeping an eye on how they handle things

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