The Pittsburgh Pirates were once the best team in MLB. Ever since July 1, the Pirates have been hovering around .500, but thanks to their outstanding first half, they still find themselves more than 20 games over .500 on the season. The reason no one really considered a second half collapse a possibility in 2013 was that the Pirates had tons of pitching depth, as opposed to 2011 and 2012 when they weren’t deep enough.
All of a sudden, the Pirates have a ton of question marks with their pitching, and it starts with Francisco Liriano. After missing over a month in the beginning of the season, Liriano has been the Pirates’ best pitcher all season. When he isn’t walking batters, he is able to go deep into games and strike a lot of guys out thanks to his devastating slider and great changeup. Recently, Liriano hasn’t been as consistent as the Pirates would like. He has some great games, but he will then follow a good game with a terrible outing.
A.J. Burnett has been very off-and-on lately for the Pirates. While he hasn’t been terrible, he hasn’t shown that he is good enough to be the number two starter in the Pirates’ rotation; he needs to get back on track soon. Jeff Locke, an All-Star in the first half, but he has been awful since the break. His walks have basically doubled in the second half. He made the All-Star team because he was incredibly lucky in the first half with an extremely low BABIP against him. Everyone knew the walks would eventually start to turn into runs.
Gerrit Cole has already passed his career high in innings pitched. It is impossible to predict if his arm will begin to tire out down the stretch, but it has to be a concern until he proves otherwise.
Wandy Rodriguez has been out for a few months, and he appears to be close to returning. It can’t come soon enough for the Pirates. Getting a solid third starter to plug in to this struggling rotation would be huge. Rodriguez won’t throw any complete game shutouts, but he will consistently give the Pirates six or seven innings per start with less than four earned runs allowed. He keeps his team in the game in almost all of his starts, and what the Pirates desperately need right now is consistency.