Friday, March 23, 2012

2012 MLB Predictions

NL East

1) Phillies
2) Braves(WC)
3) Marlins
4) Nationals
5) Mets

The NL East looks to be a strong division this year with the Marlins and Nats improving. The Phillies won 102 games last year only to lose in the Division Series to the Cardinals. Key players like Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will miss the start of the season and this is a team getting older. However, they still have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels; which will keep them in the race. I do think it will be a closer race for the Phils than in past years. The Braves collapsed last year and it will be interesting to see how they respond to that this year. I think they contend again, especially since this is Chipper Jones last season. Jose Reyes left the Mets for the Marlins this offseason, which is the biggest shakeup in the division. Its hard to envision a scenario where the Mets don't finish in last place, they look like the worst team in the division.

NL Central

1) Cardinals
2) Reds(WC)
3) Brewers
4) Pirates
5) Cubs
6) Astros

The defending World Champion Cardinals enter a new era this season without Albert Pujols and Tony LaRussa, but still have a strong ballclub. The Reds made big improvements to their pitching and are a dangerous team this year. Prince Fielder left Milwaukee for Detroit last year, but the defending division champions should still be pretty good as well. After these three teams, there is a dropoff. The Pirates are improving, but still a year or two away from serious contention. Theo Epstein is trying to work his Boston mojo on the North Side, but they are in a rebuilding year. The Astros lost over 100 games last year, and could be just as bad this season.

NL West

1) Giants
2) Diamondbacks
3) Rockies
4) Padres
5) Dodgers

The DBacks surprisingly won the division last year, and should make a run at it again this year. After winning the World Series in 2010 the Giants missed the playoffs last season. I would expect them to be motivated to return to the postseason this year, but they need to hit better. The Rockies have a couple of elite players in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but they are surrounded by fading veterans and youngsters. The Padres and Dodgers both have ownership issues that need to be resolved, and I doubt if either team contends this year. The Dodgers are kind of setup like the Rockies, a couple of great players(Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw) surrounded by castoffs.

AL East

1) Yankees
2) Rays(WC)
3) Red Sox
4) Blue Jays
5) Orioles

The Yankees beefed up their pitching in the offseason adding Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and a surprising unretirement of Andy Pettitte. The Rays have even better pitching than the Yankees, but a weaker offense. They have the prospects to make a move to improve their club midseason though. The Red Sox faded down the stretch last year, and after a beer and chicken controversy blew up their club. Bobby Valentine takes over as manager from Terry Francona and Theo Epstein went to the Cubs. The Blue Jays have got to be the team thats most excited about a second wild card. They have an improving young team but are in a beast of a division. The Orioles will likely be in the cellar again this year.

AL Central

1) Tigers
2) Royals
3) Indians
4) Twins
5) White Sox

I'd be shocked to see any team but the Tigers win this division. The Tigers might be the only team to finish over .500 in this mediocre division. The Indians put on a surprise run for the first half of the year, but the Tigers overtook them in the second half and ran away with the division. The Royals have alot of good young players coming up, and they may break the .500 barrier if things go right. The Twins have too many holes to contend and the White Sox are in rebuilding mode with first year manager Robin Ventura.

AL West

1) Rangers
2) Angels(WC)
3) Mariners
4) Athletics

The Rangers are aiming to be the first team to lose two World Series in a row to make a third since the 1923 Yankees. The Yankees won the 23 World Series after losing two in a row. They added Japanese pitching star Yu Darvish but lost CJ Wilson to the rival Angels. The Angels also signed 3 time NL MVP Albert Pujols in the offseason. It looks like it will be a race between these two clubs. The Mariners and Athletics both have very weak offenses. The A's also traded Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, Andrew Bailey, and a couple of relievers so their pitching won't be as good this year.


Wild Card Play In Game
Reds over Braves
Rays over Angels

Division Series
Cardinals over Giants 3-1
Phillies over Reds 3-2
Rays over Yankees 3-1
Rangers over Tigers 3-2

Championship Series
Cardinals over Phillies 4-3
Rays over Rangers 4-2

World Series
Rays over Cardinals 4-2

Being a Cardinals fan its tough to pick against them, but only two teams in the last 30 years have repeated as champion. Those two teams are the 92-93 Blue Jays and the 98-00 Yankees. Still, I think the Cardinals are out to prove they can win without Pujols and will make a strong push for another championship. The Rays have all kinds of great young pitching and I think they will go on a run this October. David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore is a pretty formidable playoff rotation. They also have Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Alex Cobb as rotation candidates giving them the most pitching depth in the league.


     NL MVP                                    AL MVP
1)  Joey Votto, Cin                        Robinson Cano, NYY
2)  Troy Tulowitzki, Col                 Evan Longoria, TB
3)  Justin Upton, Arz                      Miguel Cabrera, Det
4)  Matt Holliday, StL                    Albert Pujols, LAA
5)  Giancarlo Stanton, Fla              Adrian Gonzalez, Bos
6)  Brandon Phillips, Cin                 Jose Bautista, Tor
7)  Matt Kemp, LAD                     Justin Verlander, Det
8)  Cole Hamels, Phi                      Josh Hamilton, Tex
9)  Pablo Sandoval, SF                  Prince Fielder, Det
10) Tim Lincecum, SF                   Adrian Beltre, Tex

    NL CYA                                     AL CYA
1) Cole Hamels, Phi                       Justin Verlader, Det
2) Tim Lincecum, SF                      David Price, TB
3) Clayton Kershaw, LAD             Jered Weaver, LAA
4) Yovani Gallardo, Mil                 Felix Hernandez, Sea
5) Roy Halladay, Phi                      CC Sabathia, NYY

   NL ROY                                       AL ROY
1) Yonder Alonso, SD                  Matt Moore, TB
2) Drew Pomeranz, Col                Yu Darvish, Tex
3) Devin Mesoraco, Cin                Jesus Montero, Sea

Monday, March 19, 2012

Biggest Trades of the Offseason

The Oakland A's traded their top three pitchers this offseason, who are in the above shot

Today, I'm going to have a quick review of the bigger trades of the offseason and how they'll effect the teams who made the moves. Not many big names traded, but there was some impact pitchers moved this offseason. Here's a top ten below

Honorable Mention: Cubs trade Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood, Astros trade Mark Melancon to the Red Sox for Jed Lowrie, Rockies trade Huston Street to the Padres for a prospect.

10) Padres trade 1B Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs for Reliever Andrew Cashner

New Cubs president Theo Epstein drafted Rizzo and their new GM Jed Hoyer traded for him as the Padres GM. They traded hard throwing reliever Andrew Cashner to get Rizzo. Rizzo played poorly in the majors last year, but hit .331 with 101 RBIs in Triple A and is rated #47 prospect in baseball. Cashner is also capable of starting and could move in that role for San Diego.

9) Mets trade CF Angel Pagan to the Giants for CF Andres Torres and Reliever Ramon Ramirez

Pagan and Torres are both similar players, defensive first center fielders with Pagan being the better hitter. Torres slumped badly last year and Pagan dropped off as well, but Pagan is 3 years younger than Torres. This is a classic challenge trade and the Mets also got a decent reliever out of this deal as well.

8) Athletics trade Closer Andrew Bailey and OF Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox for 2 prospects and OF Josh Reddick

Bailey wasn't as sharp in 2011 after posting sub-2.00 ERAs his first two seasons. Still, a good option as closer though but the Athletics didn't want to pay his arbitration raise. They also swapped Sweeney for Reddick, who are both considered to be 4th outfielder types. Oakland also received two A ball prospects in this deal.

7) Marlins trade RHP Chris Volstad to the Cubs for RHP Carlos Zambrano

Getting rid of Big Z may be an addition by subtraction for the Cubbies. Zambrano had wore out his welcome on the North Side and maybe he can fare better with his friend and countryman Ozzie Guillen in Miami. Volstad isn't that great of a pitcher, but the Cubs are probably better off without Zambrano's outbursts.

6) White Sox trade RF Carlos Quentin to the Padres for two pitching prospects

The Padres tried to boost their offense by adding Quentin, who has hit over 20 home runs four straight seasons. But, Quentin is injury prone and will likely have a drop off in power playing his home games at Petco Park. He is also a free agent after this season. The White Sox added two pitching prospects in Simon Castro and Pedro Hernandez, who both had some struggles in the minors last year. Unfortunately for the Padres Quentin will miss the beginning of the season due to knee surgery.

5) Royals trade OF Melky Cabrera to the Giants for LHP Jonathon Sanchez and P Ryan Verdugo

Sanchez had his finest season during the Giants 2010 championship run, but dealt with injuries and inconsistency last year. The Giants also had a poor offense last year, so they felt they needed to make a move to improve that. Melky Cabrera had his best season of his career with the Royals last year, batting .305, hitting 44 doubles, and driving in 87 runs. Both players are free agents after the season.

4) Yankees trade C Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi to the Mariners for RHP Micheal Pineda and pitching prospect Jose Campos

Pineda was an All Star as rookie for the Mariners last year. But, the Mariners had a historically bad offense last year, their system has alot of pitching prospects, and they were concerned about Pineda's weight. Montero will definately help their offense and can also play 1B or DH if he's not catching. Pineda moves to the Bronx and will likely be the Yankees third or fourth starter. Pineda struck out 173 batters in 171 innings last year.

3) Athletics trade LHP Gio Gonzalez and a prospect and  to the Nationals for RHP Brad Peacock, LHP Tom Milone, and two prospects

The A's had just signed Gonzalez to a five year extension the season prior to this trade. Gonzalez made his first All Star team in 2011, but he did lead the AL in walks. Oakland does get two solid pitching prospects out of this deal along with two lower level prospects. Time will tell to see if this was a Mark Mulder trade or a Tim Hudson trade for Billy Beane.

2) Athletics trade RHP Trevor Cahill and LHP Craig Breslow to the Diamondbacks for RHP Jarrod Parker, OF Colin Cowgill, and RHP Ryan Cook

Cahill fell off his 2010 form when he won 18 games with a 2.97 ERA and had a 4.16 ERA last year. Cahill was also signed to a long term extension by Beane a year before his trade. Parker is the centerpiece of this deal for Oakland, but he is less than a year younger than Cahill is. Parker also missed 2010 because of Tommy John Surgery, but scouts consider him to have ace potential. Still, Cahill was a proven commodity signed to a reasonable deal. I'm not sure if this deal makes sense for the A's, but we'll see.

1) Reds trade 1B/OF Yonder Alonso, RHP Edinson Volquez, C Yasmani Grandal, and RP Brad Boxberger to the Padres for RHP Mat Latos

This was the biggest deal of the offseason, and should work out well for both teams. The Reds get a top flight starter in Latos and the Padres get the Reds top prospect in Alonso. Latos makes the Reds pitching staff more formidable and Alonso could end up being the Padres best hitter. Both areas were weaknesses for their respective clubs. Volquez might pitch better in San Diego than he did in Cincy's bandbox. The Padres also recieved Grandal, a catching prospect, and Boxberger, a relief prospect. Reds GM Walt Jocketty made these type of trades often in St. Louis, with most of them being successes except for the Mulder for Haren deal. The Reds also control Latos for the next four years.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cardinal Notes:Carpenter, Miller, Second Base, Adams

Its a possibility Chris Carpenter might not be ready for opening day due to his stiff neck. The Cardinals probably want to be cautious with Carp considering he pitched 273 innings last year including the postseason. They don't want to wear him out early in the year because they'll need a healthy Carpenter later on. Its also possible that Carpenter is ready for opening day, but he will have a light workload in spring training. For what its worth Carpenter said he felt good in his first workout Wednesday since he had neck stiffness.

If Carp isn't ready for opening day, it looks like Lance Lynn is Plan B this year. Kyle McClellan was Plan B last year when Adam Wainwright went down, but he wore down in the second half last year. This year Mike Matheny plans on using McClellan exclusively out of the bullpen. Lynn was a starter in the minor leagues before being called up last year to be a reliever. Lynn did a pretty good job as a reliever last year, but was hurt most of September. He was left of the Division Series roster, but came back for the NLCS and pitched well. He was roughed up a bit in the World Series though.

Lynn is rated one of the Cardinals top ten prospects and is technically still a rookie for 2012. He could be a decent middle of the rotation starter, but doesn't have an ace ceiling. Its got to be tempting to call up 2009 #1 pick Shelby Miller if another starter goes down or Lynn isn't effective as a starter. Lynn did pitch well in his spring start yesterday pitching 3 scoreless innings. While Lynn has good stuff, he doesn't have ace potential like Miller does. Miller has four good pitches and will start the season in Triple A. Miller has also looked good in spring training, and its a matter of time before he makes the big leagues. At the very least he'll be called up in September and be ready to take over for Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse in 2013. For now, Lynn is the backup plan though because the Cardinals sent Miller down to the minor league camp Wednesday.

The Cardinals have 3 way battle for the second base job this year. Soon, this will be 2011 # 1 pick Kolten Wong's job, but not for another season or two. Skip Schumaker has been the primary starter for the last 3 years but Matheny has said he plans on using Skip as a super utility player in 2012. Skip will probably still play some second, alot of outfield, and pinch hit. Daniel Descalso is also in the running and may get some time at second. Descalso is the best defensive player of the three, and is also the backup for third baseman David Freese. Tyler Greene is also getting a shot at the job, and has stole 3 bases so far including a double steal of  which Greene stole home and Descalso stealing second. I hope Greene can win the job since he can steal bases. It would add a new dimension to the Cardinals offense. Its likely Greene will play a bigger role this year anyway since he's Plan B if Rafeal Furcal gets hurt. Given Furcal's injury history I expect to see Greene at short at times this year as well. Non roster invite Alex Cora might make the club, but he's not a guy you want in the lineup everyday.

Finally, Matt Adams has been a beast in camp this year. He's been hitting well in spring training this year and is the Cardinals first baseman of the future. Obviously, he will start the season in Triple A this year. This a guy who needs to play everyday so he's not in contention for a backup outfield/first base job. Allen Craig is likely to be fourth outfielder/first baseman when healthy. Schumaker,and either Adron Chambers or Eric Komatsu are slated for the other backup outfielders. Chambers and Komatsu also would add a element of speed to the team, although in a bench role. But if anything happens to Lance Berkman or one of the corner outfielders, Adams could get the call up this year.

Tyler Greene - Chicago Cubs v St Louis Cardinals

Monday, March 12, 2012

Reds Stronger, Brewers Still Formidable for 2012

There has been some years where the NL Central has been a weak division, but 2012 will not be one of those years. I expect the defending World Champion Cardinals to make the playoffs again this year, but they will get a strong challenge from the Reds and Brewers. The Pirates are improving as well, while the Cubs and Astros look to battle for the cellar of the division. Those two teams will help pad the records of every other team in the division. With two wild cards in play now, its possible at least one of them come from the Central.

The Reds won the NL Central in 2010 with strong performances from 2010 MVP Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Scott Rolen. The Reds finished below .500 last year primarily due to bad pitching. Bronson Arroyo and Edinson Volquez were terrible, while only Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto(aka Johnny Karate) were their only decent pitchers and they both missed some starts. The Reds traded four players including Volquez and prospect Yadier Alonso for Mat Latos this December. They also traded left handed starter Travis Wood(who was mediocre last year) to the Cubs for left handed reliever Sean Marshall, who's been one of baseball's better relievers. They were also able to pick up former Phillie Ryan Madson to be their closer, and he has a great changeup similar to a Trevor Hoffman or John Franco in their prime. Former Rockie Jeff Francis was also signed to compete for a rotation spot. Aroldis Chapman and Homer Bailey will also compete for rotation spots so the Reds have plenty of options.

The Reds will also have a rookie catcher in Devin Mesoraco and a rookie shortstop in Zack Cozart this year. They will be backed up by Ryan Hanigan at catcher and by Paul Janish and former Phillie Wilson Valdez at short. Apparently a team has never made the playoffs with both a rookie catcher and shortstop before, so that's a concern for Cincinnati. Manager Dusty Baker does prefer veterans however, and they may end up splitting time. Former Cardinal Ryan Ludwick was signed to be their fourth outfielder and could form a platoon with left fielder Chris Heisey. Scott Rolen suffered through an injury plagued year in 2011 and needs a healthy year in 2012. Juan Francisco is his primary backup. Votto, Phillips, and Bruce are certain to put up big years and Drew Stubbs could if puts it together. Stubbs has a power and speed combination but struck out over 200 times last year and needs to improve.

As for the Brewers they had an interesting offseason after losing in the NLCS to the Cardinals. MLB announced that 2011 MVP Ryan Braun failed a PED test during the playoffs, but Braun's camp said the results were tainted with. He was facing a 50 game suspension, but an arbitrator overturned it in Braun's favor. While Braun will not be suspended, Prince Fielder left in free agency for a monster contract with the Tigers. Mat Gamel will take over at first after being a part time player last year. The Brewers signed former Cub Aramis Ramirez to take over third and replace some of Fielder's production. New shortstop Alex Gonzalez should be a big improvement defensively over Yuni Betancourt, although Gonzalez isn't much of a hitter. Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks had big years for Milwaukee last year, and they will need big years again if they want to contend for the division. Cardinal nemesis Nyjer Morgan returns at center field after a career year last season.

The Brewers still have a strong pitching staff that returns for 2012. Yovani Gallardo had the best season of any starter and won 17 games and struck out 207 hitters last year. Zack Greinke got better as the season went on and also struck out over 200 batters last year. Shawn Marcum was opposite, he started wearing down towards the end of the season and was rocked in the playoffs. Soft tossing lefty Randy Wolf returns and he's still a good middle of the rotation starter. Francisco Rodriguez surpirisingly accepted arbitration and returns as John Axford's setup man. Rodriguez prefers to close out games, but manager Ron Roniecke plans to keep Axford as closer. Axford led the NL with 46 saves last year.

I think the Cardinals match up well with these two teams, but it won't be a cakewalk to win the division. The Cardinals didn't even win it last year and won the wild card on the last day of the season. This year their is a new playoff format with a second wild card. The two wild card teams play a one game playoff while the three division winners wait. So it's more important to win the division now. The first five weeks of the season the Cardinals play only division rivals with the exception of one Opening Day game with the Miami Marlins. In those five weeks there are two seperate series with both the Reds and Brewers, so the Cardinals need to get off to a fast start.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Second Wild Card for 2012

The 2012 season will be the first season of the second wild card and there will now be a play-in game to make the Division Series. It was going to take place by 2013, but was added for this season recently. Commissioner Bud Selig said this would add excitement but I doubt it will top the Cardinals and Rays run when they clinched the wild card on the last day of the season. The division winners will wait to see who wins the wild card play in game for the Division Series to start. The Division Series is still a best of five, although I think it should be a best of seven myself. Proponents of the expanded playoffs say this will give division winners more of an edge, but the wild card has been the team with the second best record several times before.

I'm sure there is going to be a scenario one day were a 95 win team loses to a 86 win team in one game wild card round and goes home. One dominant pitcher on a inferior team could knock off a better team in this scenario. I don't think one game is a good way to decide a playoff unless the two teams are tied for the lead. Last year it would of pitted the Cardinals against the Braves and the Rays against the Red Sox, despite those two teams coughing up their leads late in the year. Below is a look at past years and how the second wild card would of played out. Wins are in parentheses.

                           NL                                           AL
Year   Wild Card #1   Wild Card #2    Wild Card #1   Wild Card #2
1995   Rockies(77)      Astros(76)        Yankees(79)    Angels(78)
1996   Dodgers(90)     Expos(88)         Orioles(88)      Mariners(85)  
1997   Marlins(92)       NYM/LA(88)   Yankees(96)    Angels(84)
1998   *Cubs(90)        *Giants(89)        Red Sox(92)   Blue Jays(88)
1999   *Mets(97)         *Reds(96)         Red Sox(94)    Athletics(87)
2000   Mets(94)           Dodgers(86)      Mariners(91)    Indians(90)
2001   Cardinals(93)     Giants(90)         Athletics(102)   Twins(85)
2002   Giants(95)          Dodgers(92)      Angels(99)       Bos/Sea(93)
2003   Marlins(91)        Astros(87)         Red Sox(95)    Mariners(93)
2004   Astros(92)         Giants(91)          Red Sox(98)    Athletics(91)
2005   Astros(89)         Phillies(88)         Red Sox(95)    Indians(93)
2006   Dodgers(88)      Phillies(85)         Tigers(95)        White Sox(90)
2007   *Rockies(90)     *Padres(89)       Yankees(94)    Det/Sea(88)
2008   Brewers(90)       Mets(89)            Red Sox(95)   Yankees(89)
2009   Rockies(92)       Giants(88)           Red Sox(95)   Rangers(87)
2010   Braves(91)         Padres(90)         Yankees(95)    Red Sox(89)
2011   Cardinals(90)     Braves(89)          Rays(91)         Red Sox(90)

Three different times teams have tied for the wild card spot forcing a one game playoff, those teams have an asterisk next to them. The last one being the Padres and Rockies in 2007, and that was an exciting game in which the Rockies won in extra innings. Three other times the second wild card spot would of ended in a tie, in 1997(Mets, Dodgers), 2002(Mariners, Red Sox), and 2007(Tigers, Mariners). Also in 1996 the Mariners would of won the second spot with a 85-76 record, beating out the Red Sox and White Sox who both had a 85-77 record. I suppose the Mariners would of had to make up a rainout and if they lost it would of been a three way tie for the second spot. I wonder how that would of been sorted out. The 102 win 2001 Athletics would of been forced to play the 85 win Twins in the play in game, which is the biggest difference between a wild card team and the runner up since the wild card was implemented. I'm not sure how baseball will handle some of these scenarios, but I do think there will be fluky teams upset teams with better records in this new playoff game.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pirates Sign McCutchen to an Extension

Andrew McCutchen has been the most talented player the Pittsburgh Pirates have had since Barry Bonds played for them in the early 90s. Unfortunately for the Pirates they haven't had a winning season since Bonds left as a free agent after the 1992 season. They've had some good players come up since then, but they were traded because the Pirates were unable to keep them. Yesterday, the Pirates locked up McCutchen to a six year deal worth 51 million with an option year. McCutchen wouldn't of been eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season, but this deal avoids his arbitration years and could keep him in Pittsburgh until the 2018 season.

McCutchen is a true five tool player and he made his first All Star team last season. McCutchen was batting .291 and slugging .505 at the All Star break and the Pirates had a winning record and even spent a couple days in first place. However, in the second half McCutchen slumped and only batted .216. The Pirates as a team did as well, and they only finished 72-90. It was the Pirates 19th straight losing season, but it was a 15 game improvement from 2010. McCutchen finished with a .259 average, .364 OBP, .456 slugging pct., 23 home runs, 89 RBIs, and 23 stolen bases; still a pretty decent year despite the second half slump.

The Pirates also have promising second baseman Neil Walker who drove in 83 runs last year. Left fielder and leadoff hitter Jose Tabata was hurt half the year but the Pirates have high hopes for him. Third baseman Pedro Alvarez was a first round pick in 2008 and had a decent rookie year in 2010, but took a huge step back in 2011 batting under the Mendoza line. The Pirates will need a big improvement from Alvarez this year. Rookie right fielder Alex Presley batted .298 in 52 games and Garrett Jones will move back to first base to make room for Presley. Clint Barmes was signed to be the shortstop this year, and they brought back Nate McLouth to serve as a fourth outfielder.

Pitching is still a weakness for the Pirates. The rotation was better last year, but Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, and Kevin Correia are all middle of the rotation starters. They signed Eric Bedard and traded for AJ Burnett, but Burnett is out for the first month or two of the season. Bedard is also an injury prone pitcher himself. Joel Hanrahan had a All Star year as a closer and Evan Meek, Daniel McCutchen, and Jose Veras are the best options for setup guys. Pittsburgh does have a couple of top pitching prospects in Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but they are a few years away from contributing.

Its possible the Pirates could finally break the .500 barrier this season, but this team is a year or two away from contending. The Astros are terrible and the Cubs aren't much better, so its safe to say the Pirates are no longer the doormat of the NL Central. But they Pirates aren't as good as the Reds, Brewers, and Cardinals; and it would take a miracle for Pittsburgh to leapfrog those teams this year. The Pirates do look to be heading in the right direction though, and they made a big commitment to keep their best player around at least the next 6 years.