2015 Pittsburgh Pirates – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Is it okay to talk about the Pirates’ season yet? 98 wins is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still difficult to not be disappointed with how it ended. For the second year in a row, the Pirates were axed in the MLB’s flawed system known as the Wild Card Game. This season was filled with good things, some bad things, and, of course, a few really ugly things. Let’s relive the journey.
Some were skeptical when the Pirates signed AJ Burnett in the offseason, and rightfully so. Burnett was coming off a dreadful season with the Phillies. Nobody can outrun father time, so it was reasonable to think the Pirates might have thrown $8.5M into a fire. For half of the season Burnett was really good, though. He earned his first All-Star appearance after posting an ERA of 2.18 in the first half. The second half went differently, however, and father time remained undefeated. Regardless, Burnett was worth every penny the Pirates gave him.
This was perhaps Neal Huntington’s finest year, at least in terms of value moves. In the offseason alone, Huntington added Jung-Ho Kang, Francisco Cervelli, Antonio Bastardo, Arquimedes Caminero, AJ Burnett, and he resigned Francisco Liriano. That’s a pretty good offseason. Not to be outdone, Aramis Ramirez, Joakim Soria, Michael Morse, and J.A. Happ. Add it all up and you have an excellent year by the General Manager of the Pirates.
Being a trailblazer isn’t easy, but it couldn’t have gone any better for Jung-Ho Kang. After a shaky April, Kang emerged as arguably the Pirates’ second best position player. Jung-Ho’s best month came when the Pirates needed him the most. With Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer both missing significant time in July, Kang was inserted into the everyday lineup. All he did in July was post an OPS of 1.064 which ranked 7th in the league. Unfortunately, Kang’s storybook season came to an abrupt halt in September with an injury that will likely keep him out until at least May.
Back to back comebacks against the Cardinals
Right before the All-Star break, the Pirates hosted the Cardinals in a series that turned out to be arguably the greatest series in PNC Park history. The teams split the first two games of the series, and then the magic happened. The Pirates found themselves down multiple times in the game and all hope looked lost in the 14th inning, then Andrew McCutchen did this. As for the second game, I can’t do it justice, so I leave you with Greg Brown.
Series against Nationals
It may not have been the worst series of the Pirates’ season, but it seemed like it at the time. The Nationals outscored the Pirates 19-3 on the weekend of June 19th. Charlie Morton and Francisco Liriano were both shelled over the weekend and the bats apparently didn’t travel with the team from Pittsburgh. The series could’ve been worse if not for the elbow of Jose Tabata. Thankfully, this series wasn’t a sign of things to come.
Back of the rotation
Both Charlie Morton and Jeff Locke had abysmal seasons. This is common ground for Jeff Locke, but not for Morton, contrary to popular belief. Morton has been a respectable back end starter since 2013. Morton finished the year with an ERA of 4.81, worse than Locke’s 4.49. One of these pitchers likely won’t be in the rotation next season, and based upon track record, I would bet Locke is the odd man out.
Probably the biggest reason that the Pirates fell short of winning their division was due to their struggles inside the division. They finished with a record of 34-42 against NL Central opponents. There’s no shame in finishing near .500 against the Cubs and Cardinals, but the inability to beat the Reds and Brewers is inexcusable. The Bucs finished with a record of 8-11 against the Reds and 9-10 against the Brewers. It’s hard to complain about a team winning 98 games, but their weakness against the division held them back from winning the division.
Pedro Alvarez’s Defense
To be blunt, Alvarez is an incompetent first baseman. He’s been at the position for over a year and has shown no improvement. He was so bad that Clint Hurdle decided to start Sean Rodriguez in the Wild Card game just to keep Pedro off of the field for a few innings. Unfortunately for the Pirates, all of their other options at first base were equally as incompetent at the plate. 2015 was likely Pedro’s swan song, so many Pirates fans will have to find a new whipping boy.
The Wild Card Game
You thought you’d make it through this entire article without having to relive October 7th, didn’t you? Maybe you’re still trying to fix that remote that went off the wall, so I wouldn’t recommend reading any further if you haven’t moved on. Jake Arrieta did it again. The Pirates mustered up a grand total of 5 hits against Arrieta. Gerrit Cole looked nothing like the ace that we saw all season, and the result was a frustrating 4-0 loss. Other than an opportunity in the bottom of the sixth, the only life that the Pirates showed came after Tony Watson plunked Arrieta and Sean Rodriguez decided to take his frustrations out on a Gatorade Cooler.
Onwards and upwards. With a couple of moves in the offseason, the Pirates should be back in contention next year. The NL Central will be tough again, maybe tougher, but winning the division has to be priority.