2018 Pittsburgh Pirates Expert Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
While I may be a Blue Jays fan, I tend to gravitate toward the Pittsburgh Pirates as my second-favorite team. I love their ballpark and those old-school, black and yellow uniforms really appeal to me. Unfortunately, the last couple of seasons have been terrible, and they have not won more than 80 games since the 2015 season when they won 90 and lost to the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wild-Card game.
Last season, the Pirates finished with a record of 75-87, which put them comfortably into fourth spot in the NL Central, 17 games back of the division-winning Cubs. The Pirates poor season was a combination of poor pitching and extremely streaky hitting. They owned a -63 run differential and were able to average only around 3.5 runs per game while giving up nearly five.
The Pittsburgh Pirates get their 2018 campaign underway with a quick three-game set at Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers before returning home to face the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds. The Pirates are currently +15000 to win the World Series, +5000 to win the NL Pennant and +3000 to win the NL Central crown. The season win total is 73 (-120 to the "over"), which means that the Pirates are expected to be on the outside of the playoff picture once again.
All odds are courtesy of Bovada.
Pirates 2018 Projected Lineup
The Pirates made news this past offseason when they traded the face of the franchise, Andrew McCutchen, to the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates received young right-hander Kyle Crick, outfield prospect, Bryan Reynolds, and cash considerations. Without the face of the franchise in the lineup, the Pirates' batting lineup looks something like this:
1. Josh Harrison
2. Corey Dickerson
3. Starling Marte
4. Josh Bell
5. Gregory Polanco
6. Francisco Cervelli
7. Colin Moran
8. Jordy Mercer
9. Pitchers Spot
Without McCutchen on the roster for the first time in nine seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to rely heavily on Marte and Bell to produce the bulk of the scoring. Marte is more of a hit-for-contact type player than he is a run producer. However, if the Pirates are to have a successful season, he will need to be much better than his 16 combined home runs over the last two seasons. Bell, on the other hand, is coming off a solid campaign where he posted 26 home runs and 90 RBIs on a very offensively-challenged team. He will need to replicate, if not better, that production in order to help the Pirates achieve a respectable record.
Behind those two key cogs is where you will find Polanco. He is coming off a 2017 season where he hit 11 home runs and 35 RBIs while batting .251. I said it from the get go, this team will be offensively-challenged once again this season, so wins will be hard to come by. Further down the lineup you will see Cervelli batting sixth and doing the catching, Moran hitting seventh and playing third, and Mercer batting eight and playing short stop. Cervelli and Mercer combined for 19 home runs and 89 RBIs last season, while Moran was acquired from the Astros and will make his Pirates debut.
Pirates 2018 Projected Rotation & Closer
The Pirates pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. The rotation is comprised of young pitchers with limited experience. The title of "ace" will be bestowed upon Jameson Taillon, who is just 26-years-old and entering his third Major League season. Last year, Taillon posted an 8-7 record with a 4.44 ERA. He was the unlucky recipient of awful run support, so if - and I believe it will be - the run support is there, Taillon could reach the 15-win plateau.
Behind Taillon, the Pirates will rely on Tyler Glasnow, Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams. Shane Baz and Joe Musgrove will start the season as the sixth and seventh pitchers, with the latter currently questionable to be ready for opening day due to a shoulder injury. Out of these pitchers, Nova is the most known thanks to his time with the New York Yankees. Last season, Nova pitched to an 11-14 record with an ERA just above 4.0. The Pirates will be relying on the 31-year-old to have a much better campaign to stabilize what was a shaky rotation last year.
In terms of the bullpen, the Pirates will rely on Felipe Rivero to do the closing. Rivero performed well last season and was able to convert on 21 save opportunities while keeping his ERA to 1.67. George Kontos, Michael Feliz, AJ Schugel and Josh Smoker will all be used in a relief/setup role.
Pirates 2018 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Pittsburgh to improve their record by a whopping one game to 76-86. That would still keep them in fourth place in the NL Central. Judging by their lineup and projected starting rotation, this team looks like a team that is destined to finish among the worst teams in baseball. The season win total of 73 is right about what I expect them to win, so I would take a pass if I had to play either side. One lucky winning streak could send them over the 74-win mark, while one or two injuries could put them in the 60s.
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