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MLB Predictions / Previews: Pittsburgh Pirates

MLB Team Preview – Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh-area fans have been spoiled over the past few years, what with the collective success of the Steelers, Penguins and Panthers. Apparently, somebody forgot to send the memo to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it looks like another long season in Steeltown for this baseball club.

Pittsburgh was horrendous last season, losing 95 games and finishing dead last in the National League Central, and it’s debatable of their MLB odds will be any better this season. Besides the loss of Xavier Nady and Jason Bay, both traded last summer, most of last year’s faces remain in place. The Pirates will be counting on their current roster to mature and grow if they’re going to improve in 2009.

The rotation looks like a big-time minefield; Pittsburgh’s team ERA of 5.08 was the worst in the National League. Only Paul Maholm was even remotely respectable among the starters, posting a 9-9 record with a 3.71 ERA-a borderline miracle on this roster. The Pirates desperately need the lefty to continue his upward trajectory if they want to be remotely competitive. Even then, it likely won’t be enough with the likes of Ian Snell (7-12, 5.42 ERA) and Zach Duke (5-14, 4.82) following him.

Matt Capps was enjoying a solid season as the team’s closer before a shoulder injury cost him nearly two months. He had logged 21 saves and a 3.02 ERA in 49 appearances before getting shut down. This shouldn’t be affecting MLB betting too much anyway, as the Pirates rarely find themselves in position needing to close a game out.

The lineup had few bright spots last season, save for Nate McLouth. The outfielder hit 26 homers and drove in nearly 100 runs, and he’s the only true threat in Pittsburgh’s order at the moment. At 27, McLouth-who also won a Gold Glove in ’08-has room to get even better, but he can’t do it all alone.

There is some okay talent there, but not as much as you’d expect considering how high Pittsburgh drafts each year. Catcher Ryan Doumit, 28, hit .318 with 15 homers last season. Andy LaRoche, 26, was considered a solid prospect in the Dodgers system over the past few years. Veteran Eric Hinske brings 20 homeruns from Tampa Bay.

Pittsburgh has +8000 sportsbook odds to win the World Series, and that’s being generous. This is not a good baseball team, and there’s not a lot of reason for optimism. Even if the Pirates improve by leaps and bounds, a .500 finish is unlikely. The Pirates have suffered through 16 consecutive losing seasons; count on No. 17 in 2009.

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