Nathan Smith – WPAathletics.com STAFF
With the final strike in Cincinnati, the Pittsburgh ended their 17th straight losing season. With a 62-99 record, this is their fewest wins since 2001 and the seventh time in the past ten seasons the Pirates have won fewer than 70 games.
It is a hard time to be a Bucs fan. For a team to not have a winning season since 1992 in a city known for championships, is almost like looking at insects among gods. But with all the low-points the Pirates have seen, there is some positives to look at.
One thing to note bout the Pirates roster is its youth. The roster is young; so young that only two players on the active roster were born pre-1980 (and that being Ramon Vazquez and Chris Bootcheck).
While the youth of team looks promising for the future, having a few more veterans of the game would add some well needed leadership. This could be met this offseason with the low team payroll (estimated to be somewhere around $30 million).
When the Pirates were up to bat, the results were inconsistent. There were games were they scored runs into the double digits, and then there were games they looked like they couldn’t hit on a Little League pitcher. Too often then not, it looked like the later then the former.
The Pirate’s roster has some very good young talent offensively that showed some spark. Andy LaRoche is the team’s best offensive weapon, as he is batting a .260 average and has 64 RBIs. Garrett Jones is another great weapon on offense, as he has 21 home runs. Andrew McCutchen has also been helping on the offense with a .284 average and 54 RBIs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Pirate’s looked just as inconsistent as
the offense. Ross Ohlendorf has come on as the Pirates No. 1 pitcher. On the season, he has 11 wins and 109 strike outs. But his ERA is at 3.92. With the offensive struggles, an ERA that high spells doomsday for a team.
Paul Maholm and Zach Duke are the Pirate’s other top pitchers, but both have ERAs over 4.00. When a team struggles on offense as much as the Bucs, to have a pitching staff giving up so many hits is just a killing blow to any chance of wins.
This offseason the Pirates need to test the waters of free agency to try and fill some needs. At the very minimum, a left-handed reliever and a power hitter are needed. These could help curve the current problems into a positive direction.
If the Pirates want to have any type of success in future seasons, they need to keep the best players they can at home, instead of trading them away.
First, Nate McClouth was traded on June 3 to the Atlanta Braves for prospects Gorkys Hernadez, Jeff Locke and Charlie Morton. The shocking trade of the best offensive player the Pirates had left many questioning the management of the team.
Little more than a month later, Freddy Sanchez was traded. The second baseman was the lone represeantive of the Pirates at the 2009 All-Star Game. This success lead the Pirates to put him on the trade market On July 29, Sanchez was traded to the San Francisco Giants for minor league pitcher Tim Alderson.
These are two players that could have been foundations for the future of the team. They were becoming the faces of the team and were traded for players who have yet to prove themselves.
A number of other questionable trades happaned during the year, including John Grabow to the Cubs, Henry Hinske to the Yankees and Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals
While many of these trades brought in young talent that may be future stars, they are big question marks and could be total duds. If a player has proved himself, it may be wise to raise the contract instead of trading him away.
As we look toward next season, it is very possible the Pirates will have an 18th losing season. But the years that follow will be the deciding force if the Pirates truly want to be a contender or just a doormat for the rest of MLB.