PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With Opening Day on Monday, Sportsradio 93-7 The Fan’s hosts have made their prognostications on how the year with go for the Buccos.
Colin Dunlap- “The Fan Morning Show” (Weekdays 5:40a-10a)
“I think the Pirates will fall off a few wins from last season, but still do enough to earn one of the Wild Card spots in the National League. To me, the Cubs (73 wins last season) will be exponentially better and the Reds (who went 76-86 in 2014) will be slightly better than they were a year ago. That said, they will earn just a few more victories over the Pirates than last season — but not enough to supplant Pittsburgh as the second-place team in the NL Central behind St. Louis with the Brewers finishing third again. Also, I think Gerrit Cole will make a leap from his 11 wins to up around 18 or so while A.J. Burnett will do well to win 10 games, but will eat about 185 innings. In addition, I have a terrible feeling the lower body injury that hampered Andrew McCutchen throughout spring training just might make a slight reappearance, hampering him — and the team — a bit through a small stretch this summer. Nothing big, but enough to shave a win or two off what would have otherwise been the total. That’s why I have the Pirates regressing just slightly in their win total of 88 from last season, but still finding a way to grit through into the postseason.”
Jim Colony- “The Fan Morning Show” (Weekdays 5:40a-10a)
Prediction: 92-70 1st in NL Central
“Cole emerges as the ace, Liriano wins at least 15, Burnett 12-13 over his usual 200 innings, but the Pirates will need a healthy Morton and, at some point, Kingham, Richard, and Taillon to start games as well.
The pitching and defensive numbers may fall off, but the offense will carry the team. Harrison won’t regress as much as many “experts” expect. Five Pirates – Alvarez, Walker, McCutchen, Marte, Polanco – will hit at least 20 HRs and Alvarez will hit at least 30. I’m still not completely sold on the bench as a whole, but Hart will be a pleasant surprise.
I would expect the Pirates to at least play in the NLCS.”
Andrew Fillipponi- “Cook and Poni” (Weekdays 10a-2p)
“It could be good enough for second in a competitive NL Central. There isn’t a weak team in the division. There is one superior club. St Louis, with the addition of Jason Heyward and Michael Wacha’s health, should win it. The Pirates rotation and questions at catcher will keep the Pirates out of the playoffs.”
Chris Mueller- “Starkey and Mueller” (Weekdays 2p-6p)
Prediction: 90-72 NL Central Champs
“The division is loaded, but so are the Bucs. Starling Marte will make the leap to stardom, and flirt with the 30/30 club. Gerrit Cole won’t become a full-blown ace, but he will get close, and Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett will pick up the slack. The bullpen will excel again, and the Bucs’ youth and desire to handle unfinished business will vault them over St. Louis.”
Joe Starkey- “Starkey and Mueller” (Weekdays 2p-6p)
Prediction: 88-74, Wild Card.
“Love the lineup and bullpen, wonder about rotation and bench.”
Chris Mack- “Bucco Talk” (Saturdays 8a-11a)
Prediction: 92-70, T-1st NL Central
“The Pirates will be led by multiple MVP candidates in Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, beating the Cardinals in a 1-game playoff for the NL Central crown and then beating the Nationals in the NLDS behind a pair of gems from 16-game winner Gerrit Cole. A seven-game loss to the Dodgers will come at the hands of three dominant Clayton Kershaw performances.”
Team MVP: McCutchen
Biggest Surprise: the catchers
Biggest Disappointment: Charlie Morton
Dan Zangrilli- Pirates Pre and Post Game Show Host
On Twitter- @DanZangrilli
Prediction: 91-71, 2nd place, NL Central
While the Pirates will likely win a season series against the St. Louis Cardinals (I think they match up well with the Redbirds), St. Louis is just too experienced and talented to be overtaken. However, the Pirates are as deep as they’ve ever been, in my opinion, this will allow them to get past the Brewers in another home Wild Card game and make a deep run in the post-season.
The Pirates’ pitching staff collectively regressed in 2014 from ’13. However, a bounce-back year is anticipated. Gerrit Cole, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett are all in the best physical shape they’ve been in since the trio pitched together. Jeff Locke’s maturation and commitment to working on his breaking ball will make a more solid back-of-the-rotation starter (with three good pitches) and Vance Worley has one full year of working on his reinvention since attending the University of Searage-Benedict.
The bullpen was at times an Achilles’ heel for this club, blowing many leads, and surrendering sixth inning runs at an alarming clip. The bridge to the back-end of the bullpen is much stronger with much better stuff; I’ll take Radhames Liz’s makeup and heat from Arquimedes over the erratic, seldom-used Stolmy and underwhelming stuff of Jeanmar.
Offensively, in my opinion, is where this team shines the brightest. While Josh Harrison, because of his ability to swing outside of the strike zone and lack of OBP, forces many a Sabremeterician into a forecast of regression, should still be solid and dynamic offensively. The game’s best outfield should electrify and improve, while Pedro Alvarez should, with the help of an important mechanical adjustment to reduce noise in his swing, be able to cover more of the plate. This will make Alvarez a tougher out, thus assisting in a bounce-back year. Jordy Mercer has the potential to grow. Neil Walker is in his Peak Power Years. And, Francisco Cervelli, isn’t that bad at the end of the day.*
*Must avoid freak injury(ies).
However, all of this sounds great on paper, and none of it actually plays out in reality. But that’s OK. It’s because of what the Pirates have behind all of these aforementioned players is, in my opinion, what separates them from the rest of the pack.
Their bench is as deep as it’s ever been (and when I say bench, I’ll extend this to mean pitching options as well). With Sean Rodriguez an upgrade over Clint Barmes, and Jung Ho Kang – while a story all on his own – can be intriguing and potentially dangerous, the Pirates have to depend their bench in a big way. Corey Hart can’t be any worse than Gaby Sanchez. Right? Speaking of Sanchez’s, Tony seems to have finally pulled it together in many facets of his game? Andrew Lambo’s 5-for-15 pinch-hitting stint late last year lends for optimism as well. As for the pitching – Clayton Richards, Nick Kingham, Jameson Taillon (later in the year), and Adrian Sampson all could and should make starts in 2015. Bullpen? You could do worse in the Triple-A call-up category than John Holdzkom and Casey Sadler.
The Brewers’ pitching still isn’t deep enough. The Cubs aren’t offensively mature enough. The Reds are hemorrhaging financially (thus their putrid off-season, and it doesn’t help that your $999999 billion investment turns into a base on balls addicted, two-hole hitter) and are regressing into a full-blown rebuild. While these teams are far from doormats, they aren’t the Cardinals and the Pirates.
Kevin Orie- Pirates Pre and Post Game Show Host
Veteran of over 300 Major League Games
“92 wins for the Bucs. They are a deeper team, but so is the division. Wins won’t come easy, but they have the ability to take the next step.”