When people awoke this morning, they saw that the Pittsburgh Pirates had the best record in baseball. Many of them are probably thinking, “How could this be true? The Pirates have not finished a season over .500 in the last 20 years!” There is no typo. The Pirates have one of the most talented rosters as well as a consistent rotation and bullpen. The Pirates may only have one superstar, but every player on their roster feels like they are an All-Star. The Pirates are the first team to 50 wins, although the player with the highest batting average is rookie pitcher Gerrit Cole, .333. The Pirates have been winning because of their pitching. Many people only know starters AJ Burnett and Francisco Liriano because of their past success and failure. Although Burnett and Liriano have been solid starters, the Pirates’ best pitcher has been Jeff Locke. During his first full season, Locke has won seven games and compiled a 2.06 ERA. The Pirates have 3 starters with an ERA less than 3.15, Locke, Burnett, Liriano. However, the current and future ace of the staff is Gerrit Cole. Cole was the first overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and has a 100 mph fastball with a devastating slider. He made his major league debut league on June 11. Since his debut, Cole has yet to lose or give up more than 3 runs. However, like most young pitchers, Cole has not pitched deep into many starts, averaging 6 innings per start.
The most unlikely of all the Pirates’ stars is Jason Grilli. After trading away their All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to the Red Sox, Jason Grilli assumed the position with few expectations. However, Grilli has taken the league by storm, converting 27 of his 28 save opportunities. Grilli has a 1.77 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 58 K. Along with Grilli, Mark Melancon is having a breakout season, solidifying the back end of the Pirates bullpen. Mark may have better stats than Grilli, 0.86 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 43 K. Also, the Pirates have a solid lefty reliever, Justin Wilson. Although Wilson’s stats are not comparable to Melancon or Grilli’s stats, he has been an effective lefty specialist, 2.23 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and 39 K.
Although the Pirates do not resemble the Yankee’s Murder’s Row lineup, they are able to score enough runs to win. The Pirates offense is led by superstar Andrew McCutchen. Andrew is having another great season, .293, 50 runs and 41 RBI. The Pirates may have an Andrew McCutchen clone in Starling Marte. The rookie outfield is having a great season, .283, 22 SB, and 51 runs. The Pirates are able to balance out their lineup because of Pedro Alvarez. The three year veteran is a home run machine. Alvarez is third in the National League in homers and many people think he has the most power in the league. Pirates’ fans may be hesitant about their team because they do not have a great lineup, like Cincinnati or St. Louis. However, if their pitching maintains its dominance, the Pirates will have their first over .500 season in the last 20 years and possibly make the playoffs.
Stats and pics from ESPN.com