The majority of the talk regarding the wildcard spot in the National League has been centered around the San Francisco Giants, St Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, but don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs were the fairytale of last seasons postseason, and they might do the same again this year. They’re a loveable franchise and a good one.
The Pirates are built around their MVP; Andrew McCutchen and there is no better player to build round. The five tool outfielder will once more be the main man if Pittsburgh are indeed to progress into the postseason. Seventh in WAR, first in wRC+ and third in wRAA — it’s safe to say he’s having another marvellous season. Standard for the Cutch.
They aren’t solely relying on McCutchen though, they have an all round good roster. Josh Harrison has found a home at the hot corner and at the top of the order. His plus power, speed and defense are pivotal to the Bucs’ success. They will be counting on Harrison to set the table at the top of the order, and there is no-one better to count on. With a .302/.336/.494 slash, 12 homers and 17 stolen bases, the versatile leadoff man is having a great season. It will need to continue into the last month, though.
The Pirates quintessentially have an outfield logjam, too. The Cutch is a fix in centre field, but with Starling Marte, Travis Snider, Gregory Polanco and Jose Tabata all fighting for two spots, the competition is hot. Facing the lefty heavy Cardinals this week prompted the decision to move Polanco down to Triple-A for the week, prior to the September call-ups. The Pirates will be hoping he returns to the form he showed during his first month in the bigs.
Marte leads the team in stolen bases and has plenty of pop, and Snider has really been hot of late. Yeah, the Pirates’ outfield is good. The same can be said for their infield. The aforementioned Harrison solidifies third. Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer form another solid duo at short. Neil Walker is a joy to watch at second and Pedro Alvarez has plenty of power at first. While Alvarez hasn’t been as hot as he was last year, he can always be counted on to go yard.
With Tony Watson and Mark Melancon the back of the bullpen is lights out. The small addition of John Axford will help the bullpen who have compiled a decent 3.51 ERA, good enough for 16th in all of baseball. The rotation? Pretty nice, too. Francisco Liriano may not be the same starter that won the comeback player of the year award last season, but he is still dealing having struck out 135 batters — the 18th most among all National League starters.
Gerrit Cole is nasty. Enough said. Vance Worley is a decent guy to have at the back end of the rotation and Edinson Volquez has been on form of late. You get the picture, I hope. The Pirates have a really, really good roster. The series against the Cardinals, which started last night, will be crucial. Watch out for the Bucs. They are hunting down that final wildcard spot.
Tags: Pittsburgh Pirates