Pirates in need of more pitching

The Pirates were once a team with a bright future but the mediocrity of this past season seems to point to another collapse.

In 2013, the Pirates ended a 21-year drought from postseason play. A memorable Wild Card victory over the Cincinnati Reds that year, another Wild Card appearance in 2014, and an impressive 98-win season in 2015 suggested that the Pirates were finally moving in the right direction after years of misery.

They had offensive weapons up and down the lineup and a stellar pitching staff that had the second-best ERA in the National League with a bullpen that won 19 consecutive decisions from June to September of 2015. The Pirates appeared to finally have the missing ingredient: great pitching.

Then the 2016 trade deadline approached, and the Bucs shocked their fans by trading All-Star closer Mark Melancon to the Washington Nationals.

From that point on, it all seemed to go downhill.

In December of 2016, former Korean phenom Jung Ho Kang was arrested for a DUI in South Korea and has yet to return to the United States.

Then in April, less than three weeks into the new season, the Bucs were in the news again — this time for the 80-game suspension of All-Star outfielder Starling Marte after he tested positive for PEDs.

Still, despite the shocking trade and all of the legal issues that the Pirates faced in the last year, a successful 2017 season was not out of reach. The NL Central was not a strong division this year. Just a week after the All-Star break, the Pirates were only three games back of the division lead, but they collapsed after that.

The Pirates have struggled because they lack great pitching. The same ingredient that helped the Bucs win 98 games in 2015 haunted them in 2017. Pitching has been inconsistent, and management should be blamed for failing to improve it.

The team allowed makeshift closer Tony Watson to struggle for weeks before finally promoting Felipe Rivero to the role. They then traded Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers, the league’s best team, and really got nothing for him.

While the rest of the league’s contenders improved their pitching staffs, the Pirates’ front office did the exact opposite. They either traded or released pitchers while receiving little or nothing in return. The only notable move was the reacquisition of utility man Sean Rodriguez.

The front office failed the team, the city and its fans by not pursuing pitchers.

Thus, until the front office realizes that pitching is the most important ingredient to making a championship run, the Pirates will be a subpar team for decades to come.

Ryan Graffius


(The writer is a junior at Penn State Altoona.)