Just past the halfway point of the season, the Pirates sit at 38-44. While they have performed marginally better than last season, the team is still in last place in the NL Central, 11.5 games behind the first place Cubs. So what does the first half tell us about what may occur during the remainder of the season?
Obviously, the offense has outperformed most expectations. Due to the additions of Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit to the lineup, along with the revival of Jason Bay, the Pirates have scored the eighth most runs in baseball. After ranking 23rd in 2007, that is an encouraging improvement. But they are 25th in on-base percentage and 21st in slugging. Unless those numbers improve, do not expect the runs to continue scoring at this pace.
The pitching has been abysmal. The team is 26th in ERA, 26th in WHIP, 13th in walks allowed, 25th in strikeouts, 27th in OPS against, and 23rd in home runs allowed. The pitching needs to get healthy and perform much better for the Pirates to expect success in the second half. Defensively, the team is average to below average virtually everywhere on the diamond.
None of this bodes well for the second half of the season. But the biggest issue the team will face is the prospect of losing critical players in trades this month. The outfield has mostly carried the team thus far. How will the team look if Bay and Nady are dealt? Here is an even more frightening thought. What will happen if Damaso Marte and/or John Grabow are sent packing? The 2008 bullpen has been a rollercoaster as it is. Imagine what it would look like if we lost two of our top two relievers. Scary. It may happen.
I have mentioned before that we should not focus too much on the 2008 season. This team is better than some that we have seen in recent years. However, despite hovering near .500 earlier in the season, the Pirates just do not currently have the talent to compete. Enjoy the rest of the season, and hope that the Bucs keep things interesting into September. Just keep your expectations realistic.