Are the Pirates really for real this time?

Justin K. Aller

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Analysis:

But if this is the beginning of the movie, Boras and the Pirates are walking clichés that make the foreshadowing too heavy-handed. I don't know if the Pirates are the hooker with the heart of gold, the cop with one more day until retirement, or the nice guy who finishes last, but I've seen this movie before. The odds are good that there will never need to be an article titled "What if the Pirates had Mark Appel in 2013?"

Grant's point was ... actually, I'm not sure what Grant's point was. Sometimes Grant's writing is just over my head. I'm not sure if he's saying the Pirates won't miss Appel because they're so good, or that they won't miss him because they're not good enough.

Here's what I think, though ... I think it's too soon to assume the Pirates are really this good. And I'm not saying this because they collapsed down the stretch in both 2011 and 2012.

I'm saying this because I don't trust their starting pitching. Wandy Rodriguez and A.J. Burnett? Sure. But is Francisco Liriano really back? Can Jeff Locke really keep winning with a 1.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio? Can Jeanmar Gomez keep winning with a 1.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio? These are not rhetorical questions; feel free to answer silently, inside your head.

I'm saying this because I don't trust their relief pitching. Here are the ERA's of the Pirates' three busiest relief pitchers: 1.45, 0.96, 1.09. None of those pitchers are named Mariano Rivera or Dennis Eckersley.

I'm saying this because I don't trust their lineup. Basically, everybody in the lineup every day is doing well, except for Clint Barmes and Brandon Inge and Pedro Alvarez. Those guys might not improve much, while two or three of the good hitters are likely to regress some.

I'm actually semi-sanguine about the Pirates' lineup -- hey, maybe Gaby Sanchez and Travis Snider just needed another shot, and maybe Russell Coltrane Martin just needed the National League -- but I just don't see how the pitching doesn't hit a real rough patch at some point, and probably soon.

I bought into the Pirates last summer. I'm not buying into them this season until they've got four legitimately good starting pitchers. Maybe they're going to miss Mark Appel after all.

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