Optimism surrounded the Pittsburgh Pirates heading into the season. In 2013 the team made an inspiring run, earned a Wild Card birth to reach the postseason for the first time since the early 1990s, and then advanced past the Cincinnati Reds to reach the divisional round of the playoffs. They’d lose that series in five games to the eventual National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals but it had become evident that the Pirates were no longer the laughing stock of the NL Central.
The 2014 season hasn’t quite gone to plan, but all has not been bad for the Pirates.
Andrew McCutchen is arguably having a better season, after winning the NL MVP Award a year ago. Neil Walker has raised his batting average 20 points and is on pace to surpass last year’s career high in home runs, despite missing a few weeks following an appendectomy. Russell Martin is even hitting nearly 40 points higher. Gregory Polanco finally arrived and looks every bit the promising prospect that pundits expected him to be.
Meanwhile, Starling Marte has been inconsistent and isn’t the same level of production at he did a year ago. Pedro Alvarez’ power production is down. Francisco Liriano has been a shell of his former self. Gerrit Cole has been injured. Jameson Taillon was shut down before the season even began.
There is still talent on the roster in Pittsburgh. They may sit nine games behind the surprise division leaders in Milwaukee, but they are just 2.5 games out of second place and shouldn’t yet be ruled out. A few tweaks and an addition or two and the Pirates could find themselves right in the mix once again.