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Giants/Pirates series preview

The Giants didn't do well in Pittsburgh last year. What do the Pirates look like this year?

easy easy easy EASY WATCH IT GENTLE CAREFUL, MCCUTCHEN, JEEZ  - photo credit
easy easy easy EASY WATCH IT GENTLE CAREFUL, MCCUTCHEN, JEEZ - photo credit

The Giants have been kind of abusive in their relationship with the Pirates, enough so that I could write an entire article about the bad deals between the two teams without remembering Matt Morris. It made me feel uncomfortable to write it, and it made me feel uncomfortable to re-read it. Especially this part:

So the Pirates are good again. Ten games over .500. First place. They teased the baseball world last year, but now it looks they're having an honest-to-goodness magical season.

Then, no. The Giants had the magical season, and they used Ryan Vogelsong to help. Again, Vogelsong was the worst starting pitcher in Pirates history. Can't point that out enough. Every Pirates preview from now until the end of time.

And look, say, the Pirates are good again. Shh, shh, I know, I know, but they are. They're doing it a) with Jason Grilli, b) with Francisco Liriano, and c) after firing Jonathan Sanchez into the sun. This is like a Giants-related ritual they have to complete, something from the end of Cabin in the Woods. They're practically begging the Angels for Jerome Williams because that's what the runes say they should do.

Except the Pirates don't need Williams, really. They're doing just fine with their pitching, thank you very much. If you were to combine the Giants and Pirates pitchers into one rotation, here's how they would rank by ERA+:

1. Francisco Liriano (206)
2. Jeff Locke (150)
3. Jeanmar Gomez (118)
4. A.J. Burnett (115)
5. Wandy Rodriguez (100)
6. Madison Bumgarner (96)
7. Barry Zito (85)
8. Tim Lincecum (72)
9. Matt Cain (68)
10. Ryan Vogelsong (48)

This doesn't include staff ace Chad Gaudin for the Giants, and Rodriguez and Gomez are hurt, so it's a little deceptive. And as always, it's possible the Giants get the high hat from ERA+ because of single-season park factors. But it's still stunning. The Pirates are the team filled with good pitchers. And they have a former Giants #1 closing for them (and doing an amazing job, too).

The Pirates can pitch. The Giants cannot.

This'll take some getting used to, alright. Though the blow is cushioned by the fact that the Giants have a decent-to-good offense this year, and ...

/Pablo Sandoval breaks foot on improperly cushioned fact

Dammit. But the point is that the Pirates are winning like the Giants of yore, with strong pitching and inconsistent hitting. Russell Martin, Starling Marte, and Garrett Jones are all cooling down from crazy-hot starts, and Clint Barmes is the player I would have put money on Brandon Crawford becoming. Pedro Alvarez is a riddle wrapped in an enigma tied around a Björk quote. If you think Brandon Belt is confusing ...

But the Pirates can pitch. And they have Andrew McCutchen. I would totally trade Gregor Blanco for McCutchen.

Another thing the Pirates have is young pitching. As in, super-exciting, young, hyped pitching prospects. Remember those? We made do with Mike Kickham, and that was fun for an inning. But the Pirates have the real thing: first-round guys like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. I do so miss that visceral thrill of a young pitching prospect's long-anticipated debut. Cole makes his against the Giants.

I'm almost tempted to say it's "nice" to see the Pirates doing well again, but that's kind of condescending and annoying, and it also ignores that they obliterated the Giants in Pittsburgh before the All-Star Game last year. It's somewhat unexpected, and it's different even if the Pirates teased us each of the last two seasons. And we'll have to wait until the Giants leave until we see just how nice of a story this really is.

Of course, the Pirates are almost certainly going to crash and burn. No, not because of any organization-wide malaise or curse or baseball-god dickery or anything like that. But because all of these players have something in common:

Starling Marte
Andrew McCutchen
Gerrit Cole
Jeff Locke
Francisco Liriano
Jason Grilli

Those players are all on my fantasy team. That's over a quarter of my entire roster. You're doomed, Pirates. Dooooomed.

Sorry about that. Just realized it, though, and now I'm stuck.

Hitter to watch

Brandon Inge. Or, more importantly, watch to see if the Giants are watching Brandon Inge because I'm absolutely flabbergasted that he hasn't been on the Giants by now. And considering that Sandoval is on the DL, maybe that wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world.

Inge always reminded me of Pedro Feliz. Great defense, good power, abysmal plate discipline. And Inge even caught a little, too. So if you were missing Feliz ...

Pitcher to watch

It would have been Jose Contreras, who is still alive, but he's on the DL. He's there with James McDonald, Jeff Karstens, Gomez, Rodriguez, and Charlie Morton. So not only are the Pirates pitching well, but they're doing it with a rotation they've had to put together on the fly since last summer. Not bad. Not bad at all.

So give me Cole as the young pitcher to watch. He didn't have the cartoonish eyes-out-of-socket stats in Triple-A, but the scouts signed off on him being ready. It'll be fun to watch.


A million billion strikeouts for Gerrit Cole. That will not be fun to watch.