Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0) @ Chicago Cubs (0-0)
Time: 2:20 p.m. | Where: Wrigley Field
The Pittsburgh Pirates enter the 2011 season with 18 straight losing seasons and it’s a near certainty that streak will reach 19.
The Pirates last season won just 57 games. What are reasonable expectations for fans this season?
The Pirates an intriguing team at the plate. They have a budding superstar in Andrew McCutchen, a potential power hitter in Pedro Alvarez entering his first full season, a solid all-around hitter in Neil Walker who should only get better and a 22 year old leadoff hitter in Jose Tabata who has the ability to be a dangerous player at the top of the lineup.
The young core is finally there for the Pirates from that standpoint and there’s a swagger inside the clubhouse that the players believe they will be able to hit this season.
Their 1-through-6 batters are pretty good with Tabata, Walker, McCutchen, Alvarez and the free agent additions of Lyle Overbay and Matt Diaz who will play a platoon role with Garrett Jones in right field to start the season.
Their top-6 is a good mix and the Pirates project to be aggressive on the basepads.
What the Pirates are going to need is for the likes of Tabata, Walker and Alvarez to continue to show progression in their game and not suffer a sophomore slump.
The key player though is going to be Andrew McCutchen. This is the year where many are expecting him to develop into a superstar player and he will get a big opportunity in the 3-hole.
Alvarez’s development at the plate will also be something to watch this year and a key for the Pirates.
The ability to hit for power is already there but he’s still showing signs of struggling to hit off-speed pitches and scouts still question whether he’s going to develop into that franchise type player the Pirates have envisioned when they drafted him 2nd overall in 2008.
While fans should be excited about the Pirates ability to hit this season, the team has absolutely no chance to compete this season due to their pitching.
On paper, this is one of the worst pitching staff’s in baseball with major question marks. And, spring training only brought more questions and concerns for this group.
The only bright spot going into the season is Charlie Morton but he’s obviously a wildcard.
Ross Ohlendorf who the Pirates are counting on for a big bounce back season, was a disaster in spring training.
At the top of the rotation, the Pirates know what they have in Paul Maholm and the team is hopeful for Kevin Correia to the be the pitcher he was in 2009 with the San Diego Padres.
James McDonald is going into the season with some injury concerns.
Not helping the Pirates cause is that they don’t figure to be very strong defensively in the left side of the infield with Ronny Cedeno at short and Pedro Alvarez at third.
They have upgraded defensively at first base with Lyle Overbay.
The bullpen is also not a strength for the Pirates going into the season. Just not enough pitching in both areas to compete this season.
Best Case scenario for the Pirates?: 10-12 game improvement
*The Pirates went 17-64 on the road last season but posted a winning record at Wrigley Field last year. The Pirates went 5-4 at Wrigley in 2010.
Pirates Opening Day Lineup
1. Jose Tabata, LF
2. Neil Walker, 2B
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
4. Lyle Overbay, 1B
5. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
6. Garrett Jones, RF
7. Ryan Doumit, C
8. Ronny Cedeno, SS
9. Kevin Correia, P
1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
2. Starling Castro, SS
3. Marlon Byrd, CF
4. Aramis Ramirez, 3B
5. Carlos Pena, 1B
6. Alphonso Soriano, LF
7. Geovany Soto, C
8. Darwin Barney, 2B
9. Ryan Dempster, P