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Pittsburgh Pirates Preview
by Matt Fargo - 03/05/2007
#27 Pittsburgh Pirates
2006 W-L 67-95
2006 O-U 78-78-6
15 years and counting. It has been that many consecutive seasons that the Pirates have finished below .500 and 2007 should make it 16 in a row. Pittsburgh is one of those small market clubs that cannot spend any money as it is in the bottom five in baseball in payroll. The Pirates finished ahead of the Cubs last season but Chicago went out and spent $300 million while Pittsburgh landed only one player, Adam LaRoche, and it had to trade its closer to do so. The young talent on this team is excellent but for this team to sniff .500 baseball, all of those young guys need to have breakout seasons while the few veterans need to carry the load even more. One glimmer of hope is the fact that Pittsburgh went 37-35 after the break last year so building on that momentum is always a possibility.
Pittsburgh got itself into a huge hole early on as it started out 30-60 while dropping 25.3 units in the process. The backers that didnâ€™t shy away however made some of that back in the second half as the Pirates netted just over 13 units following the All-Star break. Pittsburgh was the typical home/road team as it gained nine units at home thanks to going five games over .500 but the road was a different story. The Pirates won a National League low 24 road games and dropped over 21 units. One thing to keep an eye on again this season is when facing left-handed starters as Pittsburgh was a putrid 13-36 against southpaws for -21.7 units.
Pittsburgh was dead even in the over/under department. The Pirates finished 38-40-3 over at home and 40-38-3 over on the road so there was no advantage either way. The pitching was decent enough to not allow a ton of runs but still below average, while the offense could not score as the Pirates were dead last in the league in runs scored. While losing 36 games against lefty starters, 30 of those games went over the total showing the breakdown of the pitching. Not much went on during the offseason so it will likely be another similar year for the totals.
Run production was the problem last season as the Pirates averaged a league-low 4.3 rpg. Pittsburgh finished with a .263 batting average which was middle of the pack but its slugging percentage of .397 was dead last in all of baseball. It was the only sub-.400 slugging squad. The Pirates lone move to upgrade was picking up LaRoche who is coming off a very productive 2006 in Atlanta where he hit 32 home runs and knocked in 90 runs while slugging .561. He along with Jason Bay will provide the power. Freddy Sanchez will need another big year while Chris Duffy needs to break out as the lead-off hitter after a poor season last year.
The pitching is extremely young but it was not horrible last year and another year of experience can go a long way. Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm and Tom Gorzelanny are all 25 and under and the future looks bright for all. There is no fifth starter in place yet but if Shawn Chacon can regain his 2005 form, the rotation can be very solid. The bullpen was a strength last season, finishing 5th in the National League with a 3.98 ERA but there might be a slide this season. Middle relief is a big question mark as is the closer situation with Mike Gonzalez, who didnâ€™t blow a single save last year, now in Atlanta. Salomon Torres takes over that role and he did look good at the end of 2006 so he could surprise. Matt Capps had a great rookie season and should once again be productive as the set-up man.