2013 PITTSBURGH PIRATES SEASON PREVIEW
The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the most exciting teams in the National League during the 2012 season and were 16 games over .500 on August 6, but a disastrous finish dropped the team to a 79-83 mark and continued the team's epic 20th consecutive losing season. However, there are certainly signs for optimism for Pirates fans, like a solid core of young players and an under-appreciated amount of depth at the pitching position. The Pirates will have to overcome the loaded rosters of the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Red to break their streak and make a run at the NL Central.
Over the course of the 2012 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates fielded one of the most high-octane offenses in baseball, with a mix of clutch hitting and speed that gave National League opponents fits. By August 6, the team was 16 games over .500 and in good position in the NL Central, but experienced a brutal end of the season that saw them finish at 79-83 and conclude their Major League-record 20th straight losing season. Luckily for Pirates fans, the growth of NL MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen and a wealth of quality pitching depth could help the team make a serious run at a wild card spot or even the NL Central title.
In the offseason, the Pirates solidified their catching situation in a big way by signing former New York Yankee Russell Martin to a two-year deal, as well as bolstering their starting rotation by signing Jeff Karstens and Francisco Liriano. The team also made a cost-cutting move by trading closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox for relief pitcher Mark Melancon and outfielder Jerry Sands. The Pirates also have one of the deepest minor league farm systems in the Major Leagues, and a number of prospects could make their debut for the team in 2013, most notably pitcher Gerrit Cole, the squad's No.1 pick in 2011.
The 2013 roster should bring a mix of power and speed that could produce plenty of offense in the coming campaign. In the outfield, centerfield is manned by Andrew McCutchen, whose .327 batting average and 96 RBIs made up a bulk of the team's offense. Joining him are Sterling Marte and Travis Snider, who provide solid fielding but will need to increase their production for the Pirates to succeed next season. The infield is one of the strongest units on the team, with Garrett Jones and Pedro Alvarez holding down first and third bases and providing plenty of power, while shortstop Clint Barmes and second baseman Neil Walker form a solid tandem on the inside.
At the top of the starting rotation, A.J. Burnett is the ace of the staff, but the Pirates will need to see resurgent years out of Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald and their offseason acquisitions to be major NL Central contenders. The bullpen should also be an improved asset with the arrival of Melancon and the transition of Jason Grilli into the closer role. The Pirates roster certainly has plenty of talent from top to bottom, so if they can get big seasons out of their role players and consistent innings out of their starting rotation, they could be a surprise NL playoff team come October.
PITTSBURGH PIRATES INFORMATION:
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Stadium: PNC Park
Conference: National League
Division: Central Division
Rivals: Atlanta Braves
Notable Players: Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Roberto Clemente, Doug Drabek, Willie Stargell
Pittsburgh Pirates World Series Title: 5 - Last World Series appearance, 1979
Pittsburgh Pirates NL Championships: 9 - Last Championship appearance, 1992
The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the oldest franchises in the history of professional baseball - they got their start as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys. The team played its first National League game against the Chicago White Stockings on April 30, 1887 and played two years as the Alleghenys until changing to the Pirates in 1890. The team won the NL championship in 1901 and 1902 and the Pirates played host to the first World Series games played in an NL park in 1903. Although they would fall to the Boston Pilgrims, the popularity of baseball in Steel City was just beginning.
The Pirates won their first World Series in 1909 at Forbes Field, the first ballpark in the country made of poured concrete and steel. With Hall of Famer Honus Wagner leading the way, the Pirates knocked off the Detroit Tigers to win their first title. The Pirates won another World Series in 1925, but it would be over 30 years before the team would win another championship.
When talking about the Pittsburgh Pirates, it's impossible to leave out Roberto Clemente. The Hall of Famer boasted 3,000 career hits. The '60s and '70s proved to be a golden age of Pirates baseball, as the team won World Series titles in 1960, 1971 and 1979.
While each of these titles was special in its own way, the most unexpected was the championship in 1960 that pitted the Pirates against the world-dominating New York Yankees. The Yankees won 97 games that year and were the favorites in the series, but the Pirates fought back hard and forced a Game 7. With the game tied 9-9 in the ninth inning, second baseman Bill Mazeroski hit a one out solo home run to give the Pirates the title. It was the first time in Major League history that a World Series was decided by a home run, and it is still one of the greatest moments in Pittsburgh sports history.
With a smaller payroll than other teams in the National League, the Pirates have been forced to use alternative channels to assemble talent over the years, but the Pittsburgh faithful continues to pack the seats at PNC Park to cheer on their team. With a strong finish in the 2011 season and an impressive core of young players, the Pirates look to be a NL Pennant contender in the coming years.
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