On July 18th, we asked 15 questions about the upcoming second half of the Pirates’ season.
Now, three months later, we have our answers. Here they are..
1. Can the pitching hold up?
The pitching definitely held up, though it wasn’t quite as dominant in the second half. Opponents hit for a higher batting average and averaged more runs, but were still limited by a great Bucco pitching staff.
2. Can the offense improve?
As a whole, they hit .249/.319/.407 in the second half, an improvement from .242/.309/.387 in the first half. Not drastically improved, but still an improvement.
3. What will happen at the trade deadline?
Nothing! The Bucs (and many other teams) were silent at the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. However, they made a few nice moves to bring in Marlon Byrd, John Buck, and Justin Morneau at the end of August prior to the waiver trade deadline.
4. Will there be another 19 inning game?
5. Can Andrew McCutchen finally have a good second half?
YES! Cutch struggled down the stretch in both 2011 and 2012, but showed up this season. He solidified his MVP case by tearing the cover off the ball in August, hitting .432 between 9/2 and 9/29. Overall in the second half, Cutch hit .339/.441/.561 in 67 games. He’s pretty good at baseball.
6. Will we see Wandy Rodriguez again?
Nope. Wandy was shut down for the year; his last outing of 2013 officially came on June 5th. It looked like he was on the comeback trail when he made a rehab start in early September, but suffered a further setback and couldn’t return.
7. Can Gerrit Cole contribute for the full stretch run?
Absolutely. Cole flipped the switch and was terrific in September, posting a 1.69 ERA in five starts. He even carried it into the playoffs, dominating the Cardinals in NLDS Game 2 and earning the trust and confidence of Clint Hurdle to start him in Game 5. Cole made just one bad pitch on the night the Bucs were eliminated, leaving one out over the plate for David Freese to hammer over the wall. The former first overall pick was great during the stretch run; can’t wait to see what he can do with a full season.
8. Will Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano continue to dominate?
Jeff Locke: No. He was terrible, demoted to Altoona at one point to clear room on the roster, and ultimately left out of the postseason.
Francisco Liriano: Yes. He blew up in a few games – 5 runs vs. Cincinnati, 10 runs vs. Colorado, 7 runs vs. Milwaukee – but did well otherwise. He gave up two runs or less in nine of his second half starts. Frankie carried that into the postseason, shutting down the Reds in the Wild Card game and the Cardinals in NLDS Game 3.
9. Will the bullpen remain unstoppable?
Eh, not quite. Jason Grilli missed about six weeks due to injury and Mark Melancon faltered down the stretch. Tony Watson was a bright spot, finished the regular season with 21 consecutive scoreless outings. The Shark Tank still did their job for the most part, though they weren’t quite as dominant as they were for the first few months of 2013.
10. Can Michael McKenry figure things out?
Unfortunately, The Fort injured himself at the end of July and missed the rest of the season.
11. Who, if any one, will contribute from Class AAA?
No one made a huge impact, though guys like Andrew Lambo, Tony Sanchez, Felix Pie, Brandon Cumpton, Stolmy Pimentel, etc. made a number appearances along the way.
12. Will the Cardinals slow down?
Nope. The Redbirds were 40-29 in the second half; 19-8 in September. They closed out the regular season on a six-game winning streak to take the Central. And of course, they eliminated the Pirates in the NLDS.
13. Can they hold off the Reds?
Yep. The Bucs beat out the Reds for second place in the Central, securing home field advantage for the NL Wild Card game – which the Pirates soundly won.
14. Who will sneak up in the Wild Card race?
The Nationals had a nice run for a while, but fell short in the last week of the season.
15. Is this the year?
YES. I can confidently say this was the year for the Pittsburgh Pirates. That’s the question every year, but it was finally answered in a positive manner. There was no collapse, they finished with a winning record and made the playoffs for the first time in two decades. They even pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to the edge of elimination in the NLDS. I couldn’t be more proud to be a Bucco fan, and I’m sure others agree.