The Pirates won only 62 games in 2009, meaning they will need a significant jump simply to sniff a .500 season. Where will that major improvement come from? Let’s find out. First, the offense.
Here is the 2009 Pirate offense, excluding pitchers:
The Pirates had the league’s worst offense last season, scoring only 636 runs. Overall, the team’s position players managed a .320 wOBA in 5708 total plate appearances, good for 44.7 runs below average. Add in a pitching staff that was the most offensively feeble in baseball (.131 wOBA, 57 runs below average according to FanGraphs), and you have the ingredients for a very bad hitting team. The Pirates had only five above average hitters on the season. Eric Hinske was slightly above average in limited playing time, and Freddy Sanchez produced at about the same rate before being traded. Nate McLouth was solid at the plate before heading to Atlanta, while Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen were obviously tremendous in their rookie seasons. Brandon Moss was a huge drain on the offense, and players such as Jack Wilson and Ramon Vazquez were also uninspiring with the bat.
It is difficult to project 2010 pitcher offense, although an addition of Brad Lincoln would surely help to some degree. So let’s see what the position players are projected to do at the plate. Here are the Pirates 2010 CHONE projections, along with my best guess at each player’s plate appearances. These plate appearance totals are based on CHONE’s projections.
Those numbers are much easier to stomach, as the Pirates project to be exactly average. Andy LaRoche and Ryan Doumit are expected to be around average, while Lastings Milledge, Akinori Iwamura, Jeff Clement and Garrett Jones all should contribute good seasons. Andrew McCutchen should be the most dangerous player at the plate. That is seven of the expected eight starting position players, with only shortstop being a hole. On the bench, Moss and Church are expected to produce near league average offense. Brandon Jones is not listed here, as I don’t think he will see any time in Pittsburgh, barring injury or trade. But he is also expected to produce at around an average clip. That is pretty decent outfield depth.
An improved offense should give the Pirates about an extra 4.5 wins over 2009. And that is ignoring the fact that CHONE projects Pedro Alvarez to post a Burnitz-like .305 wOBA. If he arrives with only about a league average bat, you can tack on almost another win. And I definitely think Alvarez will outperform his projection here.
The Pirates won 62 games in 2009. Let’s move them up to 67 for 2010, based on a much improved offense. Hopefully, we will see similar improvement in other aspects of the team as well. Next up, the defense.