The Pittsburgh Pirates will be looking to restore respect around the league after altercations due to throwing inside and earning a reputation of being a dirty team.
The team also needs to restore the cohesion in the clubhouse where there was a lot of in-house dispute throughout the 2019 season. It will be interesting to see if the young players will develop into franchise cornerstones, or if they will be traded away as was done after the mid-2010s when players like Gerrit Cole, Austin Meadows, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow were all shipped from the Steel City.
The difference with this season, as opposed to the normal rebuilding season, is that in a shortened season, if players get hot, they can win quite a bit in a 60-game stretch. So, it will be interesting to watch the 2020 Pirates’ season shake out.
They currently have National League pennant odds of +10000. According to BetUS.com, the over/under for the Pittsburgh Pirates is 25.5 in MLB regular-season wins odds, and the over is at -130, while the under is currently even.
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Pittsburgh Pirates 2019 Results
The Pittsburgh Pirates had brawls, pitchers suspended, pitchers fighting with one another, and a bad season overall. Pittsburgh finished with a 69-93 record and a run differential of -153.
The Pirates finished 22 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central. The Pirates were equally as bad at home as they were on the road. At PNC Park, Pittsburgh was 35-46, while on the road, they were 34-47.
At the All-Star break, the Pirates were in the race, 2.5 games behind with a record of 44-45. But they completely tanked, going 25-48.
Many of those losses were not close, as the Pirates went 18-39 in “blowout” games. A blowout is a win or loss by six or more runs.
During the second half, teams got frustrated with the Pirates as manager Clint Hurdle instructed pitchers to throw inside. While they only had seven hit-by-pitches, teams took offense. The most notable team to take offense to the pitching inside was the Cincinnati Reds.
The teams had a heated brawl that resulted in suspensions. There were altercations inside their own clubhouse as well. Add to the dumpster fire the fact that closer Felipe Vasquez was arrested on suspicion of soliciting a minor, and you have the Pirates’ disaster that took place from July to September.
One bright spot for the Pirates in 2019 was first baseman Josh Bell. He made his first All-Star team and led the league in hitting for a time.
Pittsburgh Pirates Key Additions
When you are in rebuilding mode, there aren’t many moves that make a huge impact. One the Pirates made to provide some leadership to these young players was the signing of center fielder Jarrod Dyson to a one-year deal. He will add a speed element to the lineup.
Dyson played the last two seasons in Arizona, and in 2019, he hit .230 with seven home runs and 27 RBI. He stole 30 bases for the Diamondbacks, which was tied for third in the National League.
Left-handed starting pitcher Derek Holland signed a minor-league deal and it looks like Holland will make the starting rotation as the season ramps up. Holland spent 2019 with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants and amassed a record of 2-5 and an ERA of 6.08. Holland had his greatest success while in Texas in 2011, when he went 16-5 for the American League champion Texas Rangers.
Pittsburgh Pirates Big Losses
The Pirates lost arguably their best all-around player of the last decade outside of Andrew McCutchen when center fielder Starling Marte was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for high-upside prospects Liover Peguero and Brennan Malone. Marte took over in center when McCutchen left in 2018 and became an above-average to excellent center fielder.
He hit .295 with 23 home runs and 82 RBI. He also stole 25 bases and had an OPS of .845.
Pittsburgh lost their closer, Vasquez, when he was arrested for soliciting a minor and child pornography last September. His situation just added to the turmoil.
Pittsburgh Pirates Pitching
The starting rotation will be anchored by right-hander Chris Archer. In his first full season, he went 3-9 with an ERA of 5.19 in 23 starts. He struck out 143 hitters in 119 2/3 innings.
Archer fired off seven quality starts and allowed 25 home runs. Archer came to Pittsburgh in an unexpected trade in 2018.
Righty Joe Musgrove will return to the Pirates’ rotation off a season that, in terms of Pittsburgh success, was successful. He went 11-12 with an ERA of 4.44.
He made 32 starts and struck out 157 batters in 170 1/3 innings pitched. Musgrove allowed 21 home runs.
Right-hander Trevor Williams will return as the No. 3 starter. He had a decent first half, going 3-2 with a 4.54 ERA, but followed that up with a record of 4-7 and an ERA of 6.17.
His home run total ballooned from nine in the first half to 18 in the second half. He struck out 113 hitters in 145 2/3 innings.
Holland will crack the Pittsburgh rotation. He will need to be much better than he was in 2019 if he wants to be a major contributor.
Young right-hander Mitch Keller will round out the rotation. In limited action in 2019, he went 1-5 with an ERA of 7.13 and 65 strikeouts in 48 innings.
Pittsburgh Pirates Offense
In 2019, the Pirates were the fifth-best hitting team in the Major Leagues. They hit .265 as a team and were led by first baseman Josh Bell.
Bell hit .277 with 37 home runs and 116 RBI, good for sixth in the National League. He had an OPS of .936 and carried the offense.
The leading hitter on the team ended up being left fielder Bryan Reynolds, who hit .314, sixth-best in the National League. Shortstop Kevin Newman hit .308 with 12 home runs and 64 RBI and was one of the best rookies in the National League.
Second baseman Adam Frazier hit .278 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI, while third baseman Colin Moran hit .277 with 13 home runs and 80 RBI. It will be interesting to see how these young players deal with the adjustments that the pitchers will make to get them out.
Pittsburgh Pirates Three Key Players
The Pirates had so many issues in the second half with their pitching staff that the key players almost have to be pitchers.
The most important piece to the rotation is Archer. He has to make more starts and be more productive. Archer has the stuff to be an ace on almost any team, but his mental makeup has been brought into question. The Pirates desperately need him to become a leader.
Bell put up monster numbers, and the Pirates will need that rate of production in the shortened season.
Closer Keone Kela was placed on the injured list, but in typical Pirates fashion, no injury was listed. He is the team’s best reliever, talent-wise.
Pittsburgh Pirates Schedule Breakdown
The Pittsburgh Pirates began the season at Busch Stadium against the reigning National League Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. Just like the Pirates’ division-mates, they will play 40 in-division games, as well as 20 against the American League Central. They will play seven on the road against the Cardinals in St. Louis, against the Cubs in Chicago, and against the Reds in Cincinnati. They will play seven of the 10 at home against Milwaukee.
The Pirates will play the defending AL Central champion Minnesota Twins four times, the Detroit Tigers three times, four against the Chicago White Sox, three against the Kansas City Royals, and six against the Cleveland Indians. According to BetUS.com, the Pirates are not longshots to win the World Series. They have World Series odds of +25000.