September 1, 2010

A Glimpse of the Future?

The thought occurred to me that a comatose Pirates fan - upon waking up today to read the first third of last night's box score - would see the first third of the lineup for a 90+ win team.In fact considering this year's leaguewide offensive downturn, those season numbers are much better than they look.

There's really no way to discount these numbers. Walker is 24, McCutchen is 23, and Tabata is 22. Obviously the top third of the lineup isn't going to score and drive in eight runs every day, but is there any reason to think that days like this won't happen in 2012? 2014?

This may be, as many sources have argued, the worst Pirates team ever. Don't let that discount the fact that three of the four most significant players on the roster have put up star-level performances - at ages when many valuable MLB players throughout history were still in the minor leagues. Many teams have won championships with a 1-2-3 that did not perform this well.

As a fan, would you rather have the 2007 Pirates Neil Huntington inherited, or the 2010 Pirates? In '07 the team was nominally better on the field but was primarily composed of middling veterans with no chance of being above average players over the next few years. Now the Pirates have the core of a championship level team. The Pirates' record this year is primarily due to unbelievably awful seasons by guys who (hopefully) won't be here next year.

Pedro Alvarez is another player who is almost certain to improve. It's also difficult for any team to do worse at the remaining positions than the 2010 Pirates have done. It would not surprise me if next year's club is stronger at every position.

With four young, improving and above average hitters, the Pirates can field a legitimately good lineup for 2011 with a few moderately priced free agent acquisitions. I hope that happens.

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