Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable #14

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Dejan Kovacevic recently held a question and answer session with Jim Tracy. Here’s a snippet of that exchange:

Q: Can the Pirates contend in the Central Division this year?
A: You know what? Who knows? I don’t like getting involved in predictions, so I won’t. But I will say this: I think we’re very capable of picking up where we left off in 2006.
We’ve got some young players here who have been playing in the big leagues long enough to understand what this is all about. They’ve seen it. They get it. They understand that there has to be a measure of consistency and unselfishness.
Are we capable of doing that? I think the answer to that is yes. But where does that put us in relation to the Central Division? I think that’s why you go out there and take the field 162 times.
I’m excited to find out.

This week, both editions of Pittsburgh Pirates Roundtable will focus on handicapping the National League Central Division. Today, you’ll read what a handful of our regular panelists have to say. Be sure to check back on Thursday, too, as we’ll feature the opinions of five notable bloggers who make their home in the division.
Without further ado,
Question:
Project the 2007 NL Central teams’ order of finish from first to sixth. Which team(s) will be most surprising (for good or for bad)?

Matt from Wait ‘Til Next Year:
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Houston Astros
6. Cincinnati Reds
The Cubs were the most active team in the free agent market this off-season. They added Soriano, Floyd and Marquis, among others. With Soriano at the top of the order, Ramirez and Lee in the middle, and a fairly solid pitching staff, this team should win the NL Central in 2007. The biggest factor will be a full season from Derrick Lee. With his injury problems in 2006, the Cubs lacked any kind of offense. His return should be a huge boost. I think that in a few years, the Cubs will regret the huge contracts they handed out this offseason. But in the short term, it should lead to success.
The Brewers have some talented young players, and could compete for a playoff berth in 2007. Fielder, Weeks and Hall are three young guys that you should expect to hear a great deal about in the next couple of years. The Brewers’ potential for success this season will rely on the health of Ben Sheets. If he can make 30+ starts, this team can do some damage.
The Pirates had a quiet off-season outside of acquiring Adam LaRoche. For once, Dave Littlefield has avoided the one-year veteran stopgap signing. The young pitching staff should continue to improve if the young starters can stay healthy. Sanchez, LaRoche and Bay should provide a solid middle of the lineup, and Chris Duffy should settle in as the starting center fielder and lead-off hitter. This team will improve to around .500 this year, but it is still a hitter or two away from truly being competitive.
The defending World Series champions will struggle in 2007 because of a starting rotation full of question marks. Behind staff ace Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals will look to pitchers such as Kip Wells to be large contributors. Any Pirate fan knows that this is a bad sign. The offense will be led by the all-powerful Albert Pujols, but the rest of the lineup is aging. I hesitate to say that Pujols won’t be able to do something, but I don’t see him being able to carry this team to the playoffs again.
The addition of Carlos Lee will be a huge boost to an Astros’ offense that has been struck by the injury bug at times. But there are some major offensive holes in this lineup in Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus, and the pitching staff is full of mediocrity after Roy Oswalt. The Astros’ season could depend completely on the decision made by Roger Clemens.
Cincinnati’s Wayne Krivsky has been battling Dave Littlefield for title of worst GM recently. He might have won that battle this year, simply by signing 57-year-old Mike Stanton to a contract worth more than $5 million. He also gave up Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez for some relievers last season. Outside of Harang and Arroyo, the pitching staff is pretty thin, and this team will rely mostly on the long ball this year. With Krivsky in the lead, I can’t see this team being competitive in 2007.
GM-Carson from We Should Be GM’s:
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Houston Astros
6. Cincinnati Reds
The Brewers’ rotation has the ability to be top notch if everything falls in place. Their offense will produce plenty of runs too. This team is going to suprise because of Sheets, Hall, Weeks, Capauano and company.
The Cubs didn’t buy themselves a playoff ticket. Their offense is killer, especially with a healthy D. Lee, but that rotation is shaky at best.
The Cardinals’ rotation wasn’t all that great with Suppan, but minus him it sucks! Pujols is a beast, but he can’t carry the entire team. Count on injuries from Rolen and Edmonds.
The Pirates’ rotation has a year of experience now, and the offense will get a huge jolt from LaRoche.
Once again, crappy rotation. Oswalt is awesome, Jennings is solid, the rest are suspect. Carlos Lee brings offense, but besides Berkman who else do the Astros have that is a consistent producer?
The Reds finish last because someone has to be at the bottom.
Steve from The Parrot:
1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Houston Astros
4. Pittsburgh Pirates
5. Milwaukee Brewers
6. Cincinnati Reds
Talk about an off-season makeover. The Cubs have the potential to go worst to first with the signings of Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly and even a (hopefully) injury free Cliff Floyd, who may still have some left in the tank. Add Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, and I think you have a contender.
I think the Cards still have the offensive firepower to carry the division, but they lost some decent starting pitching by letting Jeff Suppan go and replacing him with Kip Wells. If age doesn’t catch up with Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds, they should finish in strong wild-card position.
No Pettitte, no Clemens, no Bagwell. Roy Oswalt will have to carry the rotation on his back and hope new Astro Woody Williams can help him out. Carlos Lee joins Lance Berkman as the lone power threats on this fading franchise. We’ll see how good they are quickly, as the Pirates open up the season at Minute Maid Park.
The home team has moved up one spot from last year. After an off-season defined by what moves the team didn’t make (‘cept for LaRoche), the young core of pitchers and hitters will try to continue what they started late last summer. If they can reach .500, I think we’ll all be satisfied. The team looks better on paper right now than at any time in the past four years or so.
I don’t see a lot to fear in the Brew Crew’s lineup. They got Jeff Suppan, and gave Bill Hall bags of cash. This team will tread water but finish well below .500.
Last season’s surprise team, the Reds, tanked in the second half and made no good moves in the off-season. Ken Griffey is already hurt, and their rotation goes nowhere after Harang and Arroyo. With Wayne Krivsky ready to wrangle the title of worst GM away from Dave Littlefield, the Reds will be in last for years to come.
Randy Linville from Pittsburgh Lumber Co.:
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros
Chicago has a great 1-2-3 punch in Ramirez, Lee and Soriano. If Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones can do anything, plus if Matt Murton can get some at bats, this offense will be tough. The pitching should be better. Zambrano is a stud. Lilly will help. Health from Prior and Wood should be considered a bonus.Milwaukee has a lot riding on young guys (Fielder and Weeks), and that is the primary reason why I don’t think they’ll win it. Not ready yet. Sheets, Capuano and Suppan make for a nice front of the rotation.
Hard to knock the defending World Champs, but I think it’s a long shot for the Cards to get back to the post-season. Anything is possible with Pujols in the lineup, but they lost a lot of starting pitching. The obvious questions about Edmonds’ and Rolen’s health are there. Plus, Preston Wilson doesn’t scare me (that being said, he’ll probably hit ten homers off the Bucs this year).
I think the Reds will be the surprise team in the division. The first two starters (Harang and Arroyo) are pretty good. If they could undo the trade that sent Austin Kearns to Washington, they would. Then they’d move Brandon Phillips to shortstop, have Ryan Freel at second base every day and have an outfield of Kearns/Griffey/Dunn. That’d be a tough lineup. But, they can’t undo it. The lineup is weaker with Freel in the outfield and Alex Gonzalez manning short. Of course, the year Phillips had last year might’ve been a fluke.
The Pirates should win more games because they got LaRoche and because the young players have another year (or partial year) of experience. But I don’t expect them to be serious contenders. A .500 season is a possibility if things go well.
I think the Astros are going to implode. They could just as easily surprise me and finish second. Biggio is old. Moving Berkman to first, which appears to be likely, will help him stay in the lineup. I think Carlos Lee will do well, but I think Roy Oswalt is due for a bad year (he says, hoping against hope). Clemens and Pettitte are gone and the back of the rotation is a mess.
Dave from Bucs Trade Winds:
1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Houston Astros
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Cincinnati Reds
The Brewers have the best rotation in the division if they stay healthy. Their biggest question is whether they will hit or not. Bill Hall is a nice player, but if he leads the team in nearly every offensive statistic again, drop about five wins off the total. They should be good for 83 to 86 wins.
After Zambrano, the Cubs’ rotation is a disaster. If Prior starts the year in AAA, this team is doomed and could be the biggest disappointment. They have more firepower on offense, but have fewer left-handed bats than the Pirates in the starting lineup. Will they drive in some runs? Lee’s being healthy should help there considerably. Soriano will be a beast in Wrigley. 80 to 83 wins.
Lee is a great addition to the Astros, and Jennings is a nice addition. Neither will counter-act the losses of Pettitte and Clemens. Scrap Iron is going to have to pull another rabbit out of his hat if this team is going to contend. If Brad Lidge regains his form it could be a big boost, but that is a big If. 78 to 81 wins.
After Pujols and Carpenter, there isn’t much to be excited about beyond Rolen and Duncan for the Cardinals. The pitching staff is the biggest issue, especially if Wainwright becomes a starter. Any time Kip Wells is your number two starter, your team is in serious trouble. Pujols is the only reason they finish as high as fourth. Welcome to the pack, Cardinals. 78 to 81 wins.
If the young pitchers continue to improve, Armas finds his 2001-2002 form, Duffy blossoms into a lead-off hitter and the offense improves enough with the LaRoche addition, the Pirates could surprise. They are the biggest wild card in the division with the biggest chance to surprise. 75 to 78 wins.
Two pitchers do not a rotation make. The Reds did it with smoke and mirrors last season. If they do not out-hit a team, they will lose. 72 to 75 wins.

Author: PLCArchives

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  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates Cory Humes

    For what it’s worth, I say:
    1. Cubs
    2. Brewers
    3. Cards
    4. Pirates/Astros
    6. Reds

  • http://ultimate-review.blogspot.com/ pie

    I see that everyone placed the Bucs in the middle to lower end of the pack. hmm. not sure that the Astros will finish as low as 5th, unless their pitching is really, really bad next year.

  • http://thepirateguy.blogspot.com Nicolas

    I chose not to participate in this one, because I think every single team in this division is fully capable of winning anywhere from 60-90 games, depending on how many things go just right or just wrong.
    Offense
    Chicago – Lethal
    Milwaukee – Above Average, but still developing and gelling.
    Houston – Lee, Berkman…and a bunch of other guys
    Cincinnati – Get a guy or two on and hope for the long ball
    St. Louis – Get guys on base for Pujols
    Pittsburgh – Chicago’s offense minus Soriano
    Milwaukee and Pittsburgh have rotations full of proven #2/#3 guys, and they’re the best. Cinci has two proven #2’s. St. Louis, Chicago, and Houston all have a bonafide ace and a bunch of scrubs.
    That said:
    1. Milwaukee
    2. Chicago
    3. Pittsburgh
    6. Houston
    6. St. Louis
    6. Cincinnati

  • http://www.davidhannes.com David Hannes

    Well, I’ll predict:
    1. Chicago Cubs
    2. Milwaukee Brewers
    3. St. Louis Cardinals
    4. Pittsburgh Pirates
    5. Cincinnati Reds
    6. Houston Astros

  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates/2007/02/15/pittsburgh-pirates-roundtable-15/ Pittsburgh Lumber Co. | MVN – Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Pittsburgh Pirates

    [...] On Monday, you read what our regulars had to say. Now, you get to hear from the enemy: Enjoy the contrasting opinions that these big timers provide, and feel free to rip each other apart in the comments. Nothing like a good division rivalry, eh? [...]

  • http://TheUnofficialPittsburghPiratesMessageBoard Bertie

    I like the way the “enemy” all place the Buccoes dead last in the division.
    It will be so much more enjoyable when we start wiping the smirks off their faces!

  • http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates/2007/02/25/breaking-down-the-nl-central-finale/ Pittsburgh Lumber Co. | MVN – Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Breaking Down the N

    [...] And, for those curious, none of our panelists from Roundtable #14 or #15 came up with that exact order of finish.  Someone did come close though: Cory Humes says (February 12th, 2007 at 10:03 am): For what it’s worth, I say: [...]