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Pittsburgh Pirates MLB Season Preview

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Last Season Performance

Since going into full rebuild mode in 2019, the Pittsburgh Pirates have not put together anything close to a winning season. In manager Derek Shelton’s third season at the helm, the Pirates posted their second-straight 100+ loss season and tied for last place in the NL Central. Considering the Pirates refuse to spend money on quality talent, they don’t appear to be trying too hard to compete. Another last-place finish feels likely.

Off-Season Changes

Key Additions

The Pirates were busy in the offseason and spent $30.4 on free agents, including veteran talent Jarlin Garcia, Rich Hill, Austin Hedges, Carlos Santana, and Vince Velasquez. There are no real difference-makers among those names, and the $6.725 million Pittsburgh spent for Santana is a head-scratcher. The first baseman’s last three seasons have been a disaster at the plate, with an average batting average of .207.

Fan favorite and long-time Pirate Andrew McCutchen was signed to a one-year, $5 million deal to rejoin his former team in a move that feels like fan service more than a tactical move. McCutchen, after all, hit .237 last season and under .260 every season since 2017.

Key Losses

The losses for the Pirates coincide with the players signed in the offseason. Santana fills in the gap left by Michale Chavis, McCuthen takes over for Miguel Andujar, and Velazquez is an upgrade over Bryce Wilson.

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Manager: Derek Shelton

Whether to put Shelton on the hot seat is a tough call. On the one hand, it’s impossible to ignore the Pirates’ 142-242 record (.370) since Shelton took over in 2020. But, the Pirates publicly dismantled the team in the 2019 offseason and left Shelton with precious little talent. Pittsburgh had the fourth-lowest payroll in 2022 and acted allergic to spending money on players’ salaries. Until that changes, the Pirates have no reason to make a move on Shelton as no manager could win with this team.

Strengths:

The Pirates are in the third year of a slow rebuild and have few strengths to report. The Pirates finished last season among the worst teams in baseball in almost every statistical category, both on offense and on the bump.

One slight positive is the Pirates do not give up many home runs. Last season they averaged just 1.04 per game. The Pirates also have a good defensive infield that turned the fourth most double plays in 2022.

Pittsburgh also finished in the top ten in avoiding double plays on offense and left few runners in scoring position. While that may sound positive, the Pirates succeed in these metrics due to a lack of baserunners. You can’t leave a runner in scoring position who never makes it past first base.

Weaknesses:

Pitching is a major concern heading into 2023, as the Pirates still need a true No. 1 starter. The rotation has depth with up to 10 potential starters, but quantity does not beat out quality regarding MLB pitching. The Pirates will need help to do much better than their 4.66 ERA and 1.42 WHIP.

Predictions for the 2023 Season

Until the Pirates change their frugal ways, they won’t come close to competing for the division, let alone make a playoff push. With two back-to-back 100+ loss seasons, there is no reason to feel optimistic about a team that, at best, got a tiny bit better in the offseason. Expect the Pirates and Reds to battle for last place in the NL Central for at least one more season.

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