Insert Your Own Corny Pirate-y Pun Here

Well, the Twins played three with the Pirates this week as part of the ongoing abomination that is interleague play.

Which can really only mean one thing: for the first time in, at least, weeks, I noticed the Pirates.

And hey: they don’t stink right now! They dropped two of three to the Twins, but they took two of three from the Tigers right before that and came into the Twins series at 30-33, or closer to .500 than many Pirates fans can even remember (not true at all–actually, they had about the same record at this time last year, and then everything fell apart–but it’s kind of fun to write). They have a positive run differential (+4), suggesting they might’ve played even better than that. How did that happen?

Well, Freddy Sanchez has been great; the high batting average and doubles power are back, and he’s held his own at second base. Shortstop Jack Wilson can’t hit, but more than makes up for it with his glove; ditto Nyjer Morgan, easily the most exciting 85-OPS+ left fielder in the league. Zach Duke is back looking like the ace of the pitching staff again. McLouth was doing a fine job in center, but so far McCutchen has been just as good.

Other than that, though? Really hard to say. Brandon Moss looks good in the field, but has been an even worse hitter than Morgan at the other OF corner. The LaRoche brothers have been fine, but certainly no better than average at their respective positions (but it’s nice to see Andy getting a legit chance to show he can play). After Duke, the pitching staff has been awful (it seems like every year, one of Duke, Snell, Gorzelanny and Maholm is pretty decent, and the others take a year off–though to be fair, Maholm has been at least an average starter, and even has Duke beat in FIP). They don’t have anybody that you’d really think will get a lot better anytime soon.

So anyway, I came into this hoping to be able to say “look out for the Pirates!” or something like that. But…no. They’re only six games out at this writing, but with four teams in front of them, each of whom is probably legitimately a much better team than they are. This year’s out. And you have to think there’ll be some more selling off before this season’s over; Adam LaRoche is a good bet to go, and they don’t exactly have another league-average 1B ready to step in. Jack Wilson’s probably gone too. Freddy Sanchez might stay around forever…but he’s already 31, and probably not actually this good.

And it’s hard to see them getting too much better in the near future. The Reds are up-and-comers. The Brewers will be pretty good for a couple more years, probably, and the Cubs have the resources to be good just about every year if they want to, and the Cardinals…well, the Cards have Pujols.

After McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, there’s not much on the way. Jose Tabata might still be pretty good some day…but that day is at least three years off. They took a “signability pick” college catcher with the #4 pick in last week’s draft. It’s hard to see them getting enough for LaRoche and whoever else they might get rid of to suddenly become a real contender in a year or two.

Come to think of it, it sucks being a Pirate fan. Maybe more than anything else in baseball. But hey, right now, they don’t stink!

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