Pittsburgh Pirates 2008 Season Preview

Leading up to the start of the 2008 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 32 teams. Teams will be rated on a 10-point scale in the following 5 areas: Lineup, Pitching, Manager, Intangibles/Chemistry, and Overall. Today’s team is the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Diamond Hogger’s Pittsburgh Pirates Blog of Choice: Bucco Blog

Some who write about the game of baseball have hypothesized that the Pirates won’t actually be that bad offensively in 2008. I don’t know how that could possibly be to be honest. I actually feel badly for Pirates fans. I’ve met a few that commuted to Cincinnati to see them play away from the ‘Burgh, and they’re a good and loyal fan base by all indications. They deserve better. As long as we’re talking about baseball and not football.

Either Nyjer Morgan or Nate Mcclouth will lead off and be the trendy, speedy center fielder/lead off guy of the Pirates lineup in 2008. From there, Freddy Sanchez (pictured above) will bat second and play second base. Sanchez has the unfortunate title of face of the franchise, and he could be had at the right price. That’s pretty sad seeing as how he won the batting title in 2006 and hit .304 last season with 11 HR and 81 RBI.

Adam LaRoche will probably hit 3rd and play 1st base, he was acquired after being traded for Mike Gonzalez. Another potential star will bat 4th, left fielder Jason Bay. Bay had a disasterous 2007 season after 67 homeruns in the previous two years combined and slugging percentages hovering around .550. What happened? Two things. First, Bay stopped taking walks. He averaged 98 walks in 2005/2006 vs. just 59 in 2007. I look for Jason Bay to look like Jason Bay this year and not Jayson Werth.

Xavier Nady is a solid player but he’s never going to be anything beyond that. He was acquired from the Mets for Oliver Perez. Are you kidding me Pirates? Are you trying to lose? I mean what is a trade like that supposed to accomplish? Jose Bautista and Jack Wilson follow in the order and fill out the left side of the diamond. Ronny Paulino will catch more often than anyone else so he’s the starting catcher.

The Pirates prospects are nothing special but here’s some names to watch in the coming seasons: Andrew McCutcheon (CF) and Andrew Pearce (OF/1B).

Rating: 6.1

Here’s where the Pirates have a chance to make a little milk-money this year. They’ve got some arms I like. Their #1 starter is lefty Tom Gorzelanny. Although I’m a guy who likes the ace of the staff to be a big, power righty; Gorzelanny pitched his way into this role with a 14-10, 3.88, 135 K’s type line as a 25-year old. He’s hell against lefties naturally and he could be something special.

The player I’m highest on is the #2 Ian Snell. Snell (26 years old) did everthing last year but win often, and he was victimized by a poor team. He went 9-12 with 3.76 ERA and 177 K’s in over 200 IP. Snell reminds me a bit of a Pedro Martinez (poor man’s) who hasn’t learned to pitch yet. I think Snell could be near an ace type talent on a good team. If the Pirates are smart enough to hang onto these two they should be great options the next few seasons as a source for wins.

From there, they’ve got Paul Maholm, Zach Duke, and Matt Morris. Duke impresses me the most of the three, as Morris is an old man gettin’ older and Maholm is just decent.

The closer is another bright spot in 24 year-old Matt Capps. The 6′3, 240 pound right hander was dominant last season. He threw 79 innings, struck out 64 and posted a 2.28 ERA with a 1.01 WHIP. Batters hit just .220 against him.

Other penner’ names to know are Damaso Marte, Hector Carasco, T.J. Beam, John Grabow, Franquelis Osoria, Jaret Wright and Byung-Hung Kim.

Rating: 7.6

What I know about John Russell couldn’t fill a chapter in a book. I know Jim Tracy was a great baseball man, and he couldn’t solve the baseball problem in Pittsburgh. I won’t pretend or sugarcoat here: I don’t think Russell will be the guy to do it.

He played 10 seasons in the Majors, and managed in AAA for the Phillies organization. We’ll see how it goes, folks.

Rating: 6.7

I’ll say this, the Pirates supposedly play in the one of the finest stadiums in all of Major League baseball, PNC Park. The beauty of watching a ballgame there has probably bought them some fan loyalty.

Other than that, there isn’t much to write home about. When players become anything close to what resembles a budding superstar, they’re traded away for more prospects before they cost the organization or are lost for nothing.

The Pirates are a stink team, and often when you have one of those; you don’t get a group that gets things said about them like ‘they play well together’.

Rating: 6.5

This isn’t going to be a good team and I’d be shocked if they don’t finish in the cellar in the NL Central. If the Pirates finish ahead of anyone in their division, someone is losing their job. The Pirates goal is unclear to me as an organization right now; but it doesn’t seem to be putting a competitive team on the field. I don’t have all the answers, but maybe they overhaul their scouting department. The only reason that this team isn’t in danger of losing their franchise is that new stadium that has been their saving grace.

Rating: 6.73