The Pittsburgh Pirates surprised the baseball world for a good part of 2012, their record standing at 67-54 as late as August 19th. However, the Pirates struggled from that point on and finished 79-83 for their MLB-record twentieth straight losing season. Despite that, the Pirates are entering 2013 with a little bit of hope, hope planted in the first half of the 2012 season.
Last season, Andrew McCutchen emerged as a legitimate superstar at age 25, hitting .327/.400/.553 with 31 home runs, 96 RBI and 20 stolen bases. Garrett Jones and his .274/.317/.516 line, 27 homers and 86 RBI return to play first base and possibly right field. Neil Walker also contributed on offense hitting .280/.342/.426 with 14 home runs and 69 RBI. This season, the offense should receive a boost from a full season of Starling Marte and free agent signee Russell Martin who will replace Rod Barajas behind the plate.
Adding Martin was a bit of a shock to the baseball world as many expected Martin to return to the New York Yankees but the Yankees didn’t make an offer in time and Martin will bring his defense and power behind the plate.
Meanwhile, the Pirates pitching staff, which was a pleasant surprise last season led by A.J. Burnett, and bolstered by the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez before the trade deadline, should still be a strength. In recent years, the Pirates pitching has become a bit of a surprise with pitchers like Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton and Kevin Correia all contributing.
The Pirates finished just two wins shy of a .500 record. This season, that should be obtainable for this team as McCutchen, Walker, Jones and Marte lead a young offense. Pedro Alvarez could be the wild card. His 27 errors led all qualified third basemen and, although he hit for some power, he had a lot of trouble making consistent contact. Alvarez will be expected to make improvements and if he does finally start to live up to his potential the Pirates could surprise a few people this season. Just don’t be surprised if the Pirates end the year with a winning record.