By Matthew Kruth, The Burgh Blog Writer, @theburghblog_mk
PITTSBURGH – The Pirates are having trouble pitching. There isn’t a single person who follows the Bucs that thinks the pitching staff couldn’t use improvement. The team has totaled -0.3 WAR so far to start the season; that is not good (it’s 28th of 30 teams).
Everyone will improve and regress to their true talent level. Francisco Liriano will improve his ability to locate the fastball and therefore pitch much better. Jon Niese will be able to revert back to the at least average pitcher that he normally is, and Juan Nicasio will continue to strike out batters while limiting his walks over the course of the rest of the season. Jeff Locke will be Jeff Locke, a pitcher with an ERA around 4 who has trouble going deep into games.
Niese, Nicasio, and Locke are not going to be replaced by Jamison Taillon and Tyler Glasnow before the Super Two deadline passes. Pirates fans need to accept this and get over it now, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise as things stay tough for the third, fourth, and fifth starters.
While it is important to win games in 2016, people also need to realize that for a small-market team, like the Pirates, keeping young, elite talent as long as possible is vital for long term success. Both of these prospects are ace-caliber pitchers if they reach their ceilings, and keeping them in the minors until mid-June could be the difference between keeping these guys an extra season and not being able to pay them before they even reach free agency.
The Pirates starting rotation is not all that great right now. Things will turn around when the young reinforcements arrive, but it will not happen before the Super Two deadline. And it will definitely not happen when many people in Pittsburgh will want it to happen.
Consider yourselves warned and prepare to have to be patient for the prospects to make the jump to the majors. In the meantime, it may be hard to deal with the team’s current 4.38 ERA, especially if there are times when offense is not putting up the runs to offset the deficit.