Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Midweek Mailbag: Pittsburgh's Winnings Ways, Predicting the Future for Some "Bust" Pitchers

It’s time once again to dip into the mailbag. We’re all about reaching you guys, our readers, here at Call to the Pen so there’s no better way to get you guys involved than to directly answer some of your questions. We’ll aim for this to be a regular weekly feature, but don’t feel that you have to wait to send in those questions. We can always address something at any point in time if you’re curious enough to bring it to our attention.

Remember, you can always submit questions via email ([email protected]) but we’ll also accept them via Twitter or our Facebook page.

The Pittsburgh Pirates finally found a way to have a winning season. Do they have enough to make some noise in the postseason? – Robert in Pennsylvania

I have to admit, I’m thrilled for the organization and its fan base that the team has finally managed to reach this point. There is some exciting talent on this Pirates team, so it’s nice to see the era of futility seemingly come to an end. I’m not necessarily sold that they can go deep in the playoffs, however. I might be wrong, but I’m not expecting much here.

Pittsburgh has the makings of a talented team that could consistently be in the thick of things in the NL Central. Andrew McCutchen is a surefire stud. I got to see him live in the minors once and he could do it all then. He’s just gotten better since. The team has just lacked an infusion of talent around him but it appears that some moves – and some patience – are starting to pay off. Pedro Alvarez finally discovered his power stroke this year. Starling Marte emerged as McCutchen’s running mate in the outfield in the way that we once thought Jose Tabata would. Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon were masterful in the bullpen and Gerrit Cole arrived (as expected) to stabilize the rotation. Plus, who honestly thought A.J. Burnett would turn in another strong season?

I just don’t know that this group has the experience – or more importantly, the depth – to make a run in the postseason. Much of this will depend on who they are matched up with. If they hold on and win one of the Wild Card spots and then win that first playoff game, they’ll be matched up against the NL’s best in the Atlanta Braves. The same team that dashed Pittsburgh’s hopes the last time they reached the postseason could be a major road block once again.

Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Daniel Bard all seem to be busts and unlikely to be back with their respective teams next season. Where do you see them ending up? – Brian from Boston

Bard’s the easy one to speculate on, as he was claimed off of waivers by Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs shortly after being DFA’d by the Red Sox. He doesn’t figure to cost much, so it seems likely that the Cubs will at least begin the season with him in the fold in some capacity. I’d expect that Bard will need to have a strong offseason and a good showing during Spring Training to even sniff a chance at cracking the Cubs bullpen at the start of the season.

There’s reason for optimism here, though. Bard’s problems began once Boston started to experiment with making him a starter, something he says resulted in some changes to his mechanics and his mindset. If he can get past some of the mental blocks that he’s developed and come into Spring Training just throwing the ball again, he might stand a chance at turning things around.

Hughes and Chamberlain are certainly going to be gone from the Yankees. I agree completely. I think Hughes’ future is easier to speculate on than Chamberlain’s.

The logical place for Hughes to go just might be the San Diego Padres. He’s from Southern California, would benefit from pitching in a “pitcher’s park”, and the relative low-pressure setting that San Diego would be in comparison to New York could all be benefits. There’s been speculation that he might be better suited moving back into a bullpen role, but I’m still convinced that Hughes has the talent to be a mid-rotation option for a few more years. He arrived in New York with high expectations, perhaps exaggerating how disappointing his career to date has been.

As for Chamberlain, he’s a tougher option to predict. He’s a middle reliever at this point and nothing more, but I wouldn’t expect a team to make him a primary option anytime soon. Chamberlain could potentially look towards teams near his Nebraska home – suggesting the the Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals could be options. The Texas Rangers have expressed interest in the past. Other teams could also come into the mix. Many could be potential options, but ultimately I’m guessing Chamberlain could land with a team like the Houston Astros. A low pressure situation where he could potentially thrive, possibly opening up further opportunities if he can turn things around.

Tags: Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates San Diego Padres

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