You may be seeing this scene again…
It’s time to look into the crystal ball one more time and see what’s in store for the Bucs as the second half of the MLB season rolls around. I think it’s safe to say that the Pirates’ fans around the world are pretty happy that the team is currently in first place and in the best position since 1992. Furthermore, this team has last year to learn from when it comes to collapses. But what will happen next? Well here are the official 1992 And Counting predictions for the Bucs second half.
The Pirates finish above .500.
Seeing that this end result would end a losing streak that no one in North America has even rivaled is bold in nature but looking at the team that has to be the floor of expectations at this point. The team has an 11 game cushion to work with and one of the easiest second half schedules in the league, padded with games against the Astros and Cubs who continue to look like AAA teams. Ironic that this blog’s name will be irrelevant in it’s first year but hey, no one’s complaining about the end result.
The Pirates grab a bat at the deadline.
Tim Kurkjian reported that his sources confirm this suspicion, specifically at first base or outfield so El Toro and Garrett Jones can remain in the lineup. This move would greatly help the Bucs seeing that Gorkys Hernandez is still starting for the Bucs and Josh Harrison looks like a better shortstop that Clint Barmes in many instances. The name that has been floating around is Carlos Quintin, although a bidding war of sorts should occur now that Edwin Encarnacion has signed long term with the Blue Jays. Another option is Justin Upton, but the Pirates would have to bet a good chunk of the farm to get him. Quintin is the better option, but expect Cincinnati to be very involved as well.
Not Getting Pitching hurts the Bucs.
Even though a bat is the primary concern as of now, pitching is where the Pirates should be looking for help. The unwillingness to pull Correia from the lineup coupled with Bedard’s struggles will take a huge toll on the Pirates and they will be forced to rely on Brad Lincoln and Rudy Owens/Jeff Locke (who ever is left after the deadline). Neither veteran is known for an entire season of healthy, effective work and I see both starters needing to be sat down in late August with injuries. If they AAA guys come up, I don’t expect much more than what the Pirates have gotten of late from Correia (5/6 innings, 4 > ER minimal strikeouts) and thus the struggles down the stretch begin. Unless…
Gerrit Cole gets the call.
When the rosters expand, I wouldn’t bet money that Cole is called up to Pittsburgh. However, there is still a good chance he starts dominating AA like we’ve seen in a few starts. Correia and Bedard go down. Pirates traded one half of Owens/Locke and the other gets hurt. The Bucs are in desperate need of a starter. If all of that happens (which it very likely can) then Cole needs to get the call up. He has the maturity and college experience to handle the AA MLB jump and even if he just starts 2-3 games to buy time for someone else, he can produce and keep the Bucs in contention. He’ll get sent back to the minors but be ready for a legitimate 2013 push.
Pirates fail to win the Division
Remember how I mentioned earlier that the Pirates have the second easiest schedule down the stretch? The easiest schedule belongs to Cincinnati. The Reds also suffered a second half collapse that allowed St. Louis to sneak into the playoffs and win the whole thing, a bitter taste left in the mouth of Reds fans. I don’t see the Reds collapsing like last year or letting up on the Bucs. The Reds are in total win now mode and will overpay for Carlos Quintin. The Bucs best chance to keep Cincy out of the division race will come in head to head match ups, and 6 of those 9 games are in The Natty. Unless injuries occur, the Reds will narrowly win the division over the Bucs and surging Cardinals.
Because of that, Andrew McCutchen fails to win the MVP.
The NL MVP vote is becoming a two horse race between Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto. Statistically, Votto has the edge over McCutchen in several key areas, including fielding. However, most media members agree that because of what McCutchen has done for the first place Pirates, he is a true MVP. If both players keep up the same insane levels of production, it only makes sense that the winner of the division be awarded MVP. Cutch will still receive votes and it will be close, but Votto’s pennant will be the push he needs to vault over Cutch and win the award. There is a good reason Cutch will still receive a good amount of support.
Pirates make it into the one game Wild Card versus the Dodgers.
After all is said and done, the poetry of baseball continues. The Pirates and Braves play a four game series to end the year that will determine who gets home field for the one game playoff. The Pirates win the last game of the year to clinch the one game playoff at home. The Giants win their last game of the year against LA to send their rivals across the country to face the prospect they traded away, James McDonald. J-Mac goes 7 solid innings against his old team and leaves with a 2-0 lead off a Pedro Alvarez bomb. Jason Grili and Joel Hanrahan shut the door with an insurance homer from Cutch to win the playoff and send the Bucs up against the Nats in the most unexpected NLDS ever.