Despite playing just a 60-game season in 2020, it’s expected to be another long year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and their fans. They’re a staggering longshot in an otherwise ultra-competitive National League Central. Their projected win total is one of the lowest in MLB.
The season was dealt a couple of heavy blows well after the initially-scheduled Opening Day. Starters Chris Archer (neck) and Jameson Taillon (elbow) will miss the entirety of the season. This leaves Joe Musgrove, Mitch Keller, Trevor Williams, Derek Holland, and Steven Brault as the projected five-man starting rotation. Musgrove led the staff with 168 1/3 innings pitched last year. Keller stands to see a marked improvement on a 7.13 ERA inflated by a 59.6 left on-base percentage.
Much of the envisioned starting offense will be present for Opening Day, led by 1B Josh Bell. He broke out with a .936 OPS and 37 home runs in 2019. Outfielder Starling Marte was dealt to the Arizona Diamondback in the offseason as the biggest subtraction. He was replaced by speedy but soft-swinging OF Jarrod Dyson.
Third baseman Colin Moran will get the bulk of the playing time at the hot corner, according to manager Derek Shelton. He slashed .277/.322/.429 with 13 homers over 149 games last season. Shortstop Kevin Newman was another nice surprise after slashing .308/.353/.446 with 12 home runs and 16 stolen bases.
The biggest reason for the Pirates odds being so low and their low win total projection is the fact that 40 of their games will come against the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, and Cincinnati Reds. The other 20 will be played against the American League Central, where the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers enter the season with more similar expectations to Pittsburgh.
The Pirates’ season begins Friday, July 24, with a three-game road set against the Cardinals. They’ll play 16 straight games to open August, with a four-game road trip, followed by a five-game homestand and another seven-game road trip. Their longest homestand of the season is set for Aug. 17 – Aug. 24, when they’ll host the Cardinals and Cubs.
Pittsburgh Pirates odds
Pirates betting breakdown
2019 Record: 69-93
Key Losses: RHP Dario Agrazal, OF Melky Cabrera, C Francisco Cervelli, C Elias Diaz, IF Jung Ho Kang, LHP Francisco Liriano, OF Starling Marte
Key Additions: CF Jarrod Dyson, OF Guillermo Heredia, LHP Derek Holland, C Luke Maile, C John Ryan Murphy, SS JT Riddle, OF Charlie Tilson
1. 2B Adam Frazier (L)
2. LF Bryan Reynolds (S)
3. RF Gregory Polanco (L)
4. 1B Josh Bell (S)
5. 3B Colin Moran (L)
6. SS Kevin Newman (R)
7. C Jacob Stallings (R)
8. CF Jarrod Dyson (L)
Projected Rotation: RHP Joe Musgrove, RHP Trevor Williams, RHP Mitch Keller, LHP Derek Holland, LHP Steven Brault
Projected Closer: RHP Keone Kela
Bullpen Strengths: Closer Keone Kela is coming off two solid seasons, albeit in limited use as a reliever. Kela posted a 2.93 ERA with 22 SO in 15.1 IP in 2018 and then progressed in 2019 with a 2.12 ERA with 33 SO in 29.2 IP. Richard Rodriguez is a likely lock in the pen after a solid 2019 with a 3.72 ERA with 63 SO in 72 Games (65.1 IP). Michael Feliz also had a solid 2019 campaign with a 3.99 ERA with 73 SO in 58 Games (56.1 IP). Chris Stratton impressed in 28 Games in ‘19 with a 3.66 ERA and 47 SO in 46.2 IP. His high-spin stuff will be a valuable tool out of the pen this season.
Bullpen Weaknesses: Kyle Crick was a bit shaky in 2019 going 3-7 with a 4.96 ERA and 61 SO in 52 Games (49.0 IP). The rest of the bullpen may be filled with arms who did not pitch much in 2019. Edgar Santana returns after sitting out 2019 after Tommy John surgery. Nick Burdi is likely to make the roster despite a 9.35 ERA in only 11 appearances in 2019.
Key Stats from 2019
- P Chris Archer had a rough 2019 going 3-9 with a 5.19 ERA in 23 starts and missed the final month of the season with a shoulder strain.
- RF Gregory Polanco only appeared in 42 Games in 2019 while recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder.