Pittsburgh Pirates have uphill battle in second half of season

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 13: Josh Bell #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates for his solo home run in the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JULY 13: Josh Bell #55 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates Starling Marte #6 of the Pittsburgh Pirates for his solo home run in the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 13, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

It’s a crazy concept that the Pittsburgh Pirates have lost more games than they have won, yet the general feeling is one of hope and optimism for the second half of the season.

Currently, the Pittsburgh Pirates are 44-47, sitting three games under the infamous .500 mark, and 4.5 games back of the division lead. 3.0 games is the deficit they have in the wildcard race, however, five teams are ahead of them in that race for just the second wildcard.

Speaking objectively, the Pirates could edge out teams like the Cardinals, Diamondbacks, and maybe the Padres, I know we swept them, but talent-wise they are loaded.

If we’re going to be realists about the situation, then we have to flat-out say that there are multiple teams in the NL that are more talented than the Pirates. People don’t want to hear it, they don’t want to acknowledge it, but it’s undeniable.

The talent that the Brewers, Cubs, Nationals, and Phillies have surpasses that of the Pirates. That’s not to say we couldn’t go on a run and make it interesting in the end, but the difference between these teams and the Bucs is that their ceiling is a World Series championship, whereas the Pirates ceiling is maybe a wildcard win.

All you have to ask yourself is if we were in the wildcard game or a divisional-round series, who would start Game 1 at pitcher?

An inconsistent Joe Musgrove? An underachieving Trevor Williams? I’m leaving out the likes of Chris Archer, Jordan Lyles, Dario Agrazal, for obvious reasons.

The easy answer is that, if healthy, Jameson Taillon takes the bump for Game 1. But this arm injury is as mysterious as it is concerning, and his timetable couldn’t be predicted by even the best of Nostradamus.

Compare the mess we have, to all-stars Brandon Woodruff, Max Scherzer, or proven aces Aaron Nola, Stephen Strasburg, and playoff horses Jon Lester and Cole Hamels. The Pirates, even if Taillon is healthy, do not compare.

The bullpen, believe it or not, should be in for a rebound. As Kela gets healthy and provides another proven arm back to the bullpen, coupled with Rich-Rod’s resurgence provides stability in the late innings.

I know people are concerned about Crick, but some of his troubles can be chalked up to bad luck. A few of the home runs he gave up have to do with the top of the line spit rate he generates on his slider, that gave some balls extra carry and backspin that just squeaked over the wall (Keston Hiura- 7/7/19 and Austin Riley- 6/4/19).

Felipe is Felipe, and Liriano and maybe Chris Stratton, who has looked good so far for the Pirates, can stabilize the middle relief. The Pirates could add a cheap effective reliever depending on how hot they come out of the break.

This brings me to the offense, the best hitting, (one of) the worst scoring offense in the senior circuit. What can be expected of this group?

At the beginning of the year, esteemed pundits predicted we would not be able to hit enough, but our pitching could possibly carry us to relevancy. We have seen how that’s played out.

Going into the break, everybody was hitting. Our backup, career minor league catcher? Hitting. Our spot starter, long man reliever? Ripping the cover off the ball. Our career backup corner infielder, who struggled in Triple-A? Slugging.

You get the picture, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense is defying all odds. Led by the coming-out party for our hulking superstar, who is on pace to break numerous Pirates records, and with assistance from unheralded rookies contributions by Reynolds and Newman.

Colin Moran has come on so strong lately, people are rethinking his future with the Pirates, while Adam Frazier has taken the definition of a streaky player to the fullest extent. Marte has quietly been a solid presence in the batting order all year, while Big Greg, Dickerson, and Melky have all contributed throughout the first half.

If you’re looking for trends throughout all these players, there is a glaring, unfortunate one: They are all unproven and streaky.

Baseball is a streaky sport, I get it. But can we really expect Josh Bell to duplicate his first half? He has nearly already eclipsed all of his career highs, yet some cooling down can be expected. Bryan Reynolds and Kevin Newman cannot be expected to continue to hit, and provide some surprising power, as they have been. Colin Moran has been traded twice already for a reason, and Frazier is streaky at best.

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So what does that leave the Pirates with? A strong outfield, much like we’ve had for a while now.

Maybe the Pirates have deadened my soul and optimism enough over the years, that predicting everything to go to hell is just a defense mechanism or reflex. Or maybe the good luck spree that Huntington has gone on with the putrid roster he assembled at the beginning of the year, is about to end.

I hope I am dead wrong about this, and Josh Bell hits .320 with 50 dingers and 160 RBI’s.

I hope Newman and Reynolds continue to rake and vault themselves into serious Rookie of the Year contention. I hope Huntington acquires Syndergaard for two middling prospects to make up for the Archer deal.

But let’s not kid ourselves. This is the Pirates, even when we win almost 100 games, we get bounced in the wild-card game.

I expect the Pirates to be around .500 at the end of the season, maybe a few over, maybe a few under, but vying for a playoff position at the end of the year? Pshhh you must’ve thought we we’re going to sign Keuchel too.

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How do you think the Pittsburgh Pirates will fare at the end of the season? Leave your comments below!