Feldman: Pirates pose a major threat to Cards chances

Feldman: Pirates pose a major threat to Cards chances

Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 28: Starter Jeff Locke #49 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 28, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)


by Brian Feldman, BaseballStL


Posted on June 28, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 28 at 1:15 PM

(BaseballStL) -- It's not good for baseball when a team goes multiple decades without winning. And I don't mean without winning a title. I mean without winning more games than it loses. This is the plight Pittsburgh fans have had to endure with their Pirates. There just hasn't been any hope.

Until now.

Sure, there's a lot of season left and anyone in that city is well aware another brutal collapse could be on the horizon. But, for some reason, this season just feels different. It appears those Pirates could be the team of destiny in 2013, a mere 21 years after their last winning season.

Why is that? Well, there's this thing called pitching. And the Pirates have it. No one west of the Pennsylvania state line has probably even heard of Jeff Locke but the 25-year old lefty has the second best ERA in the National League at 2.05, just a hundredth of a point behind the leader in Matt Harvey. Veteran fireballer A.J. Burnett has had a fine season while former #1 overall draft pick Gerrit Cole has shown his big 100 mph arm is not to be underestimated.

Oh, ya. And their closer - Jason Grilli - leads the NL in saves with 26 and has blown just one opportunity.

Pittsburgh team page | NL Standings

Hitting can be fluky. I don't care if you're the 1927 New York Yankees or the 2013 Miami Marlins. Hitting comes and goes. It's the team that gets hot at the right time and carries it through the stretch run of the regular season that will have the best chance to win.

But pitching? Pitching isn't streaky. Pitching wins. Scratch that. GOOD pitching wins. And it beats good hitting any day of the week. Even hot hitting.

Pirate pitching stats

So to look at this Pirates team and think they're the same old Pirates that will unquestionably falter and be a nonfactor is foolish. They've never had someone dominate like Jeff Locke has in the last few seasons. And they certainly haven't had a weapon like Gerrit Cole to unleash either. GM Neil Huntington is doing this the right way. He's building from within and being patient.

He's resisted the temptation to go all-in for a season by unloading years worth of work in developing prospects just for the chance of winning in one given season. If anything, he's gone the way of the Cardinals and tried to make Pittsburgh self sufficient with its farm system.

I don't know what's going to happen the rest of 2013 anymore than you do. But I know this. The Pirates are going to pull something off at some point. And every year they miss out it makes them hungrier for the next season.

And it appears 2012's epic collapse may have been enough fuel to finish the job in 2013.