On Monday morning, Buster Olney continued his rankings of the best Major League teams in each category. On Friday, he had the Pirates ranked 11th among the best lineups, fifth among National League teams. Monday’s article covered the best defensive teams in the majors, and he has the Pirates ranked fourth overall(subscription required).
The Pirates trail the Royals, Diamondbacks and Marlins in his rankings. Olney points to the strong defense in the outfield, as well as Francisco Cervelli behind the plate, with Chris Stewart also providing strong defense in the backup role. He also points to their defensive positioning/use of shifts as a reason to rank them so high. The Pirates should also be better on defense just by subtraction with Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez gone.
This is the first list Olney has that really looks good for the Pirates compared to their top competition in the NL Central. The Cubs and Cardinals have both received favorable ratings in every other category, with the Cubs finishing in the top five in multiple categories last week. Olney wraps up his rankings with the top teams in baseball and the these three NL Central teams could all make the top five.