Thursday, January 12, 2012

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Predictions

At the start of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates showed a little bit of what they could do, but by the end of the season, it wasn't enough to garner a winning record. The team ended the season with a disappointing 72-90 record, finishing 4th in the National League Central. They ended their year with a 19-43 record, but people forget that in their first 100 games, they shared the division lead with a 53-47 record. They didn't add many players to the lineup for 2012, but they were able to add starter Erik Bedard, shortstop Clint Barmes and veteran catcher Rod Barajas. Here are the projected starting lineup, starting rotation and closer situation for the 2012 season.

Projected Lineup

Rod Barajas (Catcher) - At the age of 36, the veteran Barajas will no longer be able to provide high averages or drive in a lot of runs; what he provides the Pirates is stability behind the plate. Barajas also can offer some nice power at the bottom of the order. He hit 16 home runs and drove in 47 runs in just 98 games with the Dodgers last year.

Garrett Jones (First Base) - The Pirates were hoping they could bring back Derrek Lee, whom they traded for at midseason last year, but he wanted to play for a contender. That opened up an opportunity for Jones to get the spot. In 148 games with the Pirates last season, mostly in right field, Jones hit.243 with 16 home runs and 58 RBI.

Neil Walker (Second Base) - The year 2011 wasn't a good one for the second-year man. He hit the sophomore wall and played a bit worse than he did in his rookie season. He hit.296 with 12 home runs and 66 RBI in 110 games in 2010, but hit just.273 with 12 home runs and 66 RBI in 159 games in 2011. The hometown kid will turn just 26 in September, so he can still bounce back in 2012.

Clint Barmes (Shortstop) - Barmes' worth to the Pirates is more on the defensive end than on offense. The 32-year-old veteran hasn't hit better than.245 over the last three seasons. He did hit 23 home runs with the Rockies in 2009, but he finished with just 12 homers and 39 RBI with the Astros last year.

Pedro Alvarez (Third Base) - A pretty good rookie season in 2010, when he hit 16 home runs and drove in 64 runs in 95 games, had everyone buzzing about his potential. But an extremely disappointing 2011 sent him crashing back down to Earth. Now he needs to prove that his numbers of.191 with 4 homers and 19 RBI in 74 games last year was a fluke, or else he might just lose his job to someone more deserving.

Alex Presley (Left Field) - Pittsburgh is hoping that Presley can build off his impressive showing in 52 games last year, when he hit.298 with 4 home runs, 20 RBI and 9 stolen bases. It looks as though he will take over full time in left field, but if the 26-year-old lefty struggles, then we might see more of Nate McLouth.

Andrew McCutchen (Center Field) - McCutchen has proved that he is the franchise player for Pittsburgh after putting All-Star numbers in 2011.McCutchen hit.259 with 23 home runs, 89 RBI and 23 stolen bases. He did struggle a bit, hitting just.216 after the All-Star break. McCutchen must continue to grow into an elite player if the Pirates want to finally contend in the Central.

Jose Tabata (Right Field) - Despite his battles with the injury bug, the Pirates didn't hesitate in extending Tabata with a lucrative six-year contract. The 23-year-old has hit.284 in 193 big league games. After re-signing him, the Pirates are expecting a big jump in production after Tabata hit just 4 home runs with 21 RBI in 91 games last season.

Projected Rotation

Erik Bedard (LHP) - Bedard put up solid numbers last year after missing the entire 2010 season, but injuries are a major concern moving forward. He went just 5-9 in 24 starts, but posted a strong 3.62 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He has what it takes to be a 15-game winner if he can make 30 starts, but hasn't been able to do so since 2006.

Charlie Morton (RHP) - Morton seems like he is finally proving his worth in Pittsburgh. His 10 wins and 3.83 ERA were both career bests, but he needs to step up and show better control. His 77 walks resulted in a high 1.53 WHIP, something that he needs to improve if he wants to keep his position at the top of the rotation.

James McDonald (RHP) - Similar to Morton, McDonald has what it takes to be a legit starter in the National League, but he needs control in order to take that next step. He went 9-9 with 4.21 ERA, but posted a 1.49 WHIP due to a whopping 78 walks.

Kevin Correia (RHP) - Correia started out the season strong, earning a spot on the All-Star team by going 10-6 to start the season. But he wilted in the second half, and his poor 6.08 ERA in July and 8.41 ERA in August have lowered some expectations going into 2012. But he is still good for at least 10 wins, as he has reached that mark in each of the past three seasons.

Jeff Karstens (RHP) - His pinpoint control is what gives him good success, as he doesn't have the arm strength to blow away hitters. He had a great 2011, posting his best season as a starter, going 9-9 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 26 starts. So long as he hits his spots, he should remain an effective starter despite not having an overpowering fastball.

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