Baseball 2010: How much lower can Pirates go?
Outfielder Garrett Jones is the only player on the Pirates' roster who has hit 15 home runs in a major-league season.
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Every year, I expect the worst from the Pirates. Every year, they give me less. Last season, I predicted a 67-95 record. They went 62-99. The year before, I said they would lose 90 games. They lost 95. In 2007, the prediction was 73-89. I must have been really dreaming that spring. They finished 68-94. In '06, the call was 72-90. They went 67-95.
This season, I'm not taking any chances.
The Pirates can't possibly do worse than that.
Or can they?
Some have speculated the lineup will be the franchise's worst in more than 55 years, going back to the early-1950s when it lost 112, 104 and 101 games in consecutive seasons. We're talking about a lineup that appears to be much worse than the one last season, which ranked last in the majors in runs, second-to-last in home runs and third-to-last in batting average and on-base percentage. It's pretty much the same lineup that finished the season after general manager Neal Huntington traded Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson.
TO OPENING DAY
The Post-Gazette's five-day preview of the Pirates' 124th season:
You know, the lineup that went 19-46 after the trade deadline.
Only right fielder Garrett Jones has hit more than 15 home runs in a major-league season. He had an impressive 21 in 82 games last season. Only catcher Ryan Doumit has driven in more than 64 runs. He had 69 RBIs in '08 when he played in 116 games, the only season in his five-year big-league career that he was able to stay healthy enough to play more than 83 games. Only second baseman Aki Iwamura has scored more than 74 runs. He scored 91 in '08 when he played for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
That Pedro Alvarez can't get here soon enough?
At the four main power positions -- first base, third base, right field and left field -- the Pirates have Jeff Clement, Andy LaRoche, Jones and Lastings Milledge. Clement has seven home runs in 75 career games in the majors and, based on his production most of this spring, should be in the minors. LaRoche, a nice little player, is hardly a power threat with a career-best 12 home runs last season. Jones, despite his fine work in the second half of last season as an ultra-rare 28-year-old phenom, is far from a proven player. Milledge, a former No. 1 pick, has been a career underachiever, is with his third organization and perhaps is facing his final shot.
That Clement has been handed the job at first base is baffling. The Pirates would be better off with Jones at first and Ryan Church in right field. At least Church has something of a track record. He did hit 15 home runs and drove in 70 runs in '07 with the Washington Nationals.
The projected lineup as it is?
Where are the home runs going to come from?
I want to be positive with the Pirates' starting pitching. I really do. But it's hard when you look at that impotent lineup and the club's rather suspect infield defense without Adam LaRoche at first base and Wilson at shortstop. You realize the starters are going to have to be almost perfect on most nights for the team to have a chance to win. And who among us is perfect?
Zach Duke, the opening-day starter Monday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, made the All-Star Game last season but is a career 37-55 pitcher. Ross Ohlendorf pitched lights out in the second half of last season but was lit up in his two spring-training starts before his scheduled outing last night against the Philadelphia Phillies. Paul Maholm has front-end-of-the-staff stuff but hasn't won more than 10 games in a season. Charlie Morton has amazing potential but so did Paul Wagner, Kris Benson and Kip Wells. Daniel McCutchen is the No. 5 man in the rotation only because management's choice for the job, Kevin Hart, couldn't find the plate with a GPS system and was sent to the minors.
But, hey, the bullpen looks really, really good!
Sorry, I just don't see 60 wins from this team.
Make it 59-103.
First Published April 3, 2010 12:00 am