Opening day is tomorrow and without a doubt it is my favorite day of the year. The start of baseball season is the official start of spring and summer is on the way. The 162-game grind is about to begin. Every team in baseball is going to have its ups and downs, with exception of the Pirates who will be down all year. The idea of starting to watch baseball, even pathetic Pirate baseball, for the next 7 months, just makes me smile and feel really good. It is the American pastime. Baseball will be going through some changes that will hopefully get the game moving along a little better and provide more action. With the exception of the Pirates, the other 31 teams in the league, all have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs, even the Baltimore Orioles. There is probably more balance in the league than ever before. You do have the one super team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, but they did not win the pennant last year, let alone the World Series. The young talent in the league is at an all-time high. The left side of the infield in MLB, has the best players on that side of the field, in the history of the game. I am in Western Pennsylvania and the team I will be watching every day is the Pittsburgh Pirates. This year could be the worse year in their franchise history.
Last year at this time I gave a fairly optimistic view of the upcoming 2021 season, based on the fact that the Pirates had some quality Major League players on the roster. The pitching seemed a little thin, but I thought there was some potential for the staff to put a good season together. I thought that the Pirates would have a chance to surprise people with a little luck and things breaking the right way. Luck went out the window on opening day when Ke’Bryan Hayes injured his wrist on opening day, wound up only playing 96 games and became a below average hitter with a lot of soft contact. Speaking of soft contact, Kevin Newman struck out very few times last year but unfortunately probably set some kind of record for soft contact, becoming the worst hitter in all of baseball last season. He now has a new stance. Big whoop. Last year Cole Tucker did not make the team that lost 100 games last year. This year is on the opening day roster. That in a nutshell says how bad this team is going to be. The pitching staff has a few new faces but certainly not enough to make much difference for one of the worst pitching staffs of 2021. They were in the bottom 5 of every significant pitching stat. in 2021. They were 7th from the bottom in total strikeouts. The thing that was scary about this staff is that they seemed to digress as the season wore on. The Pirates fired their hitting coach last year, but I think they should have considered firing the pitching coach also. The Pirates have one Major League outfielder in Bryan Reynolds. One thing that will make the season interesting is how much ground he can cover in left center and right field, since he will be the only one out there capable of catching a ball. I think over 120 losses can be a possibility.
Is there anything that could happen that might keep the 2021 season from becoming a total disaster? Yes, there are always things that can happen, that might make this team play close to .500 ball. Ke’Bryan Hayes could come back and be the hitter he was in 2020 or come close. To say that Hayes’s drop off in offensive production was immense is an understatement. The wrist injury was devastating. If he can get close to the numbers of 2020, the Pirates will win a few more games. Mitch Keller had a very good spring training until his last outing. I have always maintained that spring training performance is meaningless, but it does get the media people excited. He touched 100 MPH with his fast ball and pitched 8 scoreless innings in spring training until he got roughed up the last time. There are some who are touting him to make the All-Star team this year. WOW! If he can develop into a mid-rotation starter, I would be thrilled and surprised. Kevin Newman could become an average Major League hitter, but I doubt it. Then there is Diego Castillo the spring training home run machine, who fought his way onto the team. One thing the Pirates need is the long ball, as again, they were the worst in baseball on knocking the ball out of the park and trailed the 29th place Arizona Diamondbacks by 20 home runs. The final factor will be how good and how much the Pirate prospects will see Major League action. There are at least a handful of them that are better than what is on this team right now. The excuse that is used by management for holding a prospect back from the big leagues is that they are afraid it may affect his confidence if gets off to a bad start, and he seems overmatched. Here are some slash lines Bat Ave./ On Base%/ Slugging. 243/290/428, 255/284/389, 267/317/351, 256/352/333, 223/330/416. Who put these numbers up. Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Bobby Bonilla, and Barry Bonds their first year in the majors. Those slow starts or less that stellar performances, did not seem to affect their careers negatively. The only way to really learn your trade is to play with the best as soon as possible. The only reason these younger Pirates are not on the opening day roster is simply greed and thinking that the Pirate fan base is just plain stupid. Tomorrow will begin the new season and I can hardly wait. I always enjoy a good laugh. If I am wrong and believe me I hope that I am, the crow will go down as smooth as can be.