Pirates: Contender or Pretender?

Conor Frederick
Contributing Writer

I got back from the Pittsburgh Pirates - Milwaukee Brewers game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, and my dad says that he would love to come back to watch a Pirates vs. Red Sox World Series game. So that gets me thinking, "How would these two match up in the Fall Classic?" With just two wins now separating Boston and Pittsburgh, this could be a realistic possibilty. But there's still a long way to go, ye

So let's start with what I saw tonight. The Pirates beat the Brewers handily 7 - 1 with good starting pitching, a little bit of power from new acquisition Marlon Byrd, and good defense. I will break down their strengths, weaknesses, who to watch (cough Andrew McCutchen cough) how they would fare against the Red Sox if the Fall Classic would start tomorrow.


Let's start with their strengths. First on the list that I noticed was the ability to score in multiple ways. Out of 7 runs scored, 4 were manufactured runs and 3 came on Marlon Byrd's 22nd home run and 1st since being traded to the Pirates. Second thing I noticed is that the defense was solid and they made some tough plays to boot. Both of these things are big pluses for the Pirates going forward. Not that the Sox couldn't match them, but the Sox have had problems on offense particularly. Lack of run support and stranding base runners (same category really) has been an Achilles heel for the Red Sox, and that something the Pirates could exploit if they meet in the World Series. The one weakness they have on offense is they rank 2nd in the NL in strikeouts with 1111, according to Baseball Reference. That could be a deciding factor, especially if the Red Sox pitch well.


Their first weakness that I noticed which the Red Sox could exploit is pitching, particularly the starter tonight - Charlie Morton. Morton was not overpowering, striking out 2 and giving up no runs on 3 hits through 6.2 innings. He was efficient, but the Red Sox could easily knock him out before the 5th inning with their patient style of offense. The Pirates generally rank pretty high in pitching, but they are 6th in strikeouts according to Baseball Reference, so I think pitching could be a weakness as it relates to a potential World Series match up with Boston because of Boston's patience. Second, the fan noise was terrible for a team in the thick of the postseason (and maybe World Series) discussion. Maybe the fans are stunned, or maybe they're waiting for a collapse. Maybe if the Pirates make the postseason, which they will, the fans will fully get behind their team. If the Pirates do make the playoffs, PNC Park will have to be louder than tonight, or the Pirates won't get out of the Division round.

Players to Watch: Andrew McCutchen, Marlon Byrd.

It should come as no surprise that Andrew McCutchen is in this section. He's Pittsburgh's superstar, and how well he plays will determine how far Pittsburgh gets into the playoffs. He was NL MVP last year for a reason. The guy can do just about anything from playing defense to hitting one out of the park. Marlon Byrd was a pleasant revelation for Pirates fans, I'm sure, with a 3-run bomb in his first game. He'll bear watching, as he could be the piece the Pirates never knew they needed, but pushes them over the edge in the hunt for October baseball.

If the World Series started tomorrow, I would say Red Sox in 6 because the Sox could wear down the Pittsburgh starting rotation and lower the boom, but the Pirates would give them a good series because they are, at least at the moment, an elite team in the National League.

Tweet me @ConorJF1016 or leave a comment below with your thoughts.