Re: How many games will the Pirates win this year?
You really have to be an eternal optimist to predict anything other than another sub-.500 season. What exactly have the Pirates done to give ANYONE that kind of optimism? OK yeah, they brought in LaRoche. A blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. But...
-- They still have no reliable leadoff hitter. Chris Duffy will be out of the league in a year...again. I would seriously consider giving Andrew McCutcheon a real shot at the CF and leadoff job. What have they got to lose? The kid's clearly got talent out the wazoo.
-- 3/5 of their starting rotation is average AT BEST. Ian Snell and Zach Duke will be good. After that, feh. Maholm and Gorzelanny STILL haven't figured out how to get out of the first inning without giving up runs. Chacon is a stiff. Armas is only slightly better than Chacon. Not much confidence there.
-- Their bench is woefully weak. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to trade Rob Mackowiak after all, was it? I'd rather have him than Jose "K" Hernandez. Nate McLouth, Humberto Cota and Ryan Doumit strike fear into no one. Jose Bautista is probably the best of the bunch. They really could have benefited from another LH stick to platoon with Nady in right, but no...Littlefield has to make sure the NutJobs keep as much money as possible rather than improve the team, so forget that.
-- They have no true, reliable closer. With the way Salomon Torres is getting lit up this spring, there should be a major cause for concern. Somehow I think Dan Kolb will end up being the closer by season's end, and that doesn't make me comfortable either.
-- Clubhouse issues, particularly the relationship between Jack Wilson and Jose Castillo, could become a factor. While I do not disagree with Jack calling Castillo out, there have been rumors that they have not been getting along. That is not good. If your team is already weak, the absolute last thing you need is a fracture in the locker room. That could send the team into a tailspin that they may never get out of.
The bright spots are, of course:
-- Freddy Sanchez. Don't expect him to hit .344 again, but he'll be over .300 for sure.
-- Jason Bay. Will hit 40 2B, 35 HR and well over 100 RBI and around 100 runs scored. Again.
-- Adam LaRoche. Should hit over 30 HR and drive in around/over 100 runs, and if he really takes advantage of the short RF porch, could approach 40 HR.
-- Ronny Paulino. He's picking up right where he left off last season and is hitting over .350 this spring.
-- Ian Snell. Has been lights-out this spring and is, IMO, the ace of the staff.
-- Zach Duke. Should be and will be better than last season.
-- The bullpen. Other than Torres, this unit should be solid.
Overall, it still translates into no more than 76 wins for this team, IMO, and losing season no. 15 in a row.