Just doing a little dreaming here. If the Pirates had NL middle of the pack pitching, they would have allowed approximately 100 runs less this season. The Mets are currently 1.5 games back in the Wild Card chase. Why do I mention the Mets?
The Mets have 453 runs scored this season as opposed to the Pirates 454. Pretty similar I'd say. The real interesting note is the Mets are middle of the pack in runs allowed in the NL, they have allowed 96 fewer runs than the Pirates (421-517).
It might be a stretch to say the Pirates would be in similar standing as the Mets, but the stats are eerily similar to what I am talking about.
With average pitching, the Pirates likely would invert their 44-49 record and be talking about who to pick up rather than who to deal at the deadline.
Many want to place the blame on the bullpen. I don't see why. Yes they have allowed the most runs of ANY bullpen in the league, but they have also been used and abused thanks to the regular run of poor starts throughout the year.
Most of the pens issues lie squarely on the starting rotations head.
Paul Maholm has been stellar most of the season. Zach Duke has pitched well into the 120's in pitch count allowing him to work into the 6th and later. Dumatrait has been cause for concern, even before the injury. Dumatrait has not gone deep into games, no one would mistake him for an innings eater. What he has done is make it through the 5th to allow for a decision. He really fits the mold of a 5th starter to a tee.
The two "aces" of the staff have been the bane of the pitching staff. Snell and Gorzelanny have been brutal, not lasting 5 inning in most outings. It has nearly been a two months since Snell has pitched in the 6th. If one or the other can rebound and rediscover what they did last season, the Pirates could still make a Wild Card push.
Don't hold your breath on Gorzelanny who is currently pitching in Indy, I have a feeling he will end up on the DL soon for the dreaded DAS (Dead Arm Syndrome). Even more chilling, the Pirates don't seem to be interested in rushing him back to Pittsburgh.
Which leaves us to Ian Snell. In the past three years Snell has posted a 4.70 ERA post all-star break. His pre all-star break ERA? 3.95. Yes, that is right, in the last 3 seasons Snell has been 3/4 of a run better before the break than after. If that trend continues this season, Snell will finish with a 6.60 ERA.
Doesn't look too hopeful for a turnaround this year does it?
Possible upcoming trades could lend to correcting the issue. Tampa is deep in starting pitching franchise wide. They are interested in Bay, Nady and Marte. Getting a couple of their plethora of arms would ease the pain in losing 2 of Marte and Nady or Bay. We have outfield options waiting to fly in from Indy in either McCutchen or Pearce. While neither will fill in for what Nady has done all this season, they would be adequate if the rotation can be solidified. Getting arms who don't get pummeled when called up would be a boost to the team.
More on trades later and what to expect before the deadline with my spin on what it means in 2008 and beyond.