Assuming that there will be no postponed games this week, on Thursday the Pirates will have officially played 25% of the 2017 season. Time to take a look at how things are going and answer the question posed in the headline above.
The good news is that the Pirates are right behind the defending World Series Champion Cubs in the standings. You'd have settled for that on Opening Day, right? The bad news is that the Cubs are one game below .500 and in fourth place, which means that our Pittsburgh Pirates are in last place, six games below .500 (16-22), 3.5 games behind the aforementioned Cubs, and six games behind the first place Cardinals.
More good news - the Pirates are on a two game winning streak. More bad news - this comes on the heels of a six game losing streak.
The State of the Bucco Union is bleak these days. Let us count the ways....
- Power hitting third baseman Jung Ho Kang remains in Korea appealing his third DUI conviction and trying to get a visa to enter the USA. My betting money says that Kang never plays another game for the Pirates, and if by some remote chance he does, it won't be in 2017.
- Starling Marte, perhaps the team's best all around player in 2016 is currently sitting out an 80 game PED suspension.
- The much ballyhooed new outfield alignment of Polanco-Marte-McCutchen has been blown up largely due to Marte's idiocy and now consists of WhoeverTheyCanGetToPlayLeftfield - McCutchen - Polanco.
- Tyler Glasnow: 1-3, 7.98 ERA, 21 BB, 2.08 WHIP, 29.1 IP. Do I have to say any more?
- Andrew McCutchen, the former MVP and the guy who has been the face of the franchise for the last ten years, leads the team in RBI with (only) 17 and does have 6 home runs, but he is hitting only .242 and has an OPS of only .689. His below average season of 2016 appears to be continuing. It is a surprisingly early erosion of skills as Cutch is only 31 years old. More to the point, his body language and the look on his face seems to be screaming "get me out of here". I am guessing that he will get that wish when July 31 rolls around. It will be a sad end to the wonderful story that was Cutch's time as a Pirate.
- How about free agent acquisition Daniel Hudson, who figured to be a solid eighth inning set-up guy? 0-2, 7.80 ERA, 22 H, 15 BB in 15 IP. That is beyond awful.
- Trips to the DL for Adam Frazier and David Freese, the guys who had been their best hitters early in the season.
- I won't even talk about the bench. It ain't worth mentioning.
And, of course, there is the news that pitcher Jameson Taillon had to leave the team and have surgery for testicular cancer. That, of course, goes beyond baseball and is a truly sad and terrible human story for a young man only 25 years old. It is hoped that he recovers fully from this (the outlook in such cases caught early enough is good), but it speaks to what appears to be shaping up as a star-crossed season for the Pirates.
I know what you're asking...say something good about the Pirates for crissakes, willya! So, I will.
Acquired from the Nationals for Mark Melancon last year at the deadline, Rivera has put up the following line so far this year:
1-1, 0.87 ERA, 20.2 IP, 22 K, 4 BB, 0.82 WHIP, .176 BA Against
Plus, he seems to hit 99 or 100 MPH with every pitch. He has been perhaps the most effective player on the team.
I will close out by mentioning a subject that it has been much discussed in a couple of Facebook groups that I am in, and that is Clint Hurdle's future as Pirate manager. I will start out by saying that I like Hurdle as a manager. He has done a terrific job resurrecting the dead that was the Pirate team he inherited from the moribund John Russell in 2011. Yes, I can bitch and moan about this line-up card or that strategical maneuver, but you can do that about any manager, but overall, I consider him a Good to Very Good manager.
That said, I think that this will be Clint's final year as Pirate skipper. The fact that the front office has not extended him through 2018, making him a quasi-lame duck, says a lot. I also think that Hurdle himself may just see how that same front office failed to capitalize on that 98 win 2015 season, and say to himself, "screw it, I've had enough of this". As it is with McCutchen, Hurdle's body language seems to be saying that this is his swan song. Whether he will be fired or allowed to "retire" makes little difference in the end, I suppose. Current bench coach Tom Prince seems to be the heir apparent. Frankly, that excites me not one bit, but he will come cheap, and we all know that that excites Bob Nutting a great deal.
So, the remaining 75% of the Bucco season doesn't appear to hold a lot of promise insofar as competing for a post-season berth is concerned. The real question may be Can they finish with a winning record? To do that, they will need to turn the ship around pretty soon, or a full scale fire sale is sure to take place when that July 31 trade deadline comes around.