Finesse: It was with a strange mixture of complete shock and overwhelming indifference that you and I found out just this morning that today is the start of another baseball season. So far in 2011, our baseball coverage has been limited to breaking down the legal philosophies of the phlebotimist on the Barry Bonds jury and playing our daily "Guess The Real Pittsburgh Pirate" competition, in which we Tweet out two names, and leave it to our fans to decide which one is on the Pirates and which one is completely made up. But now that Opening Day is upon us, don't you think that we owe it to the people to give our perspective on the 2011 season?
Artistry: Considering that we feel we owe it people to give our perspective on the Real Housewives of New York City, I'm going with "Yes." Already there is reason for optimism today, as team officials revealed that the Pirates have pulled their 25-man roster's total payroll to within $162,863,389.00 of the New York Yankees. Pirates president Frank Coonelly says bonuses and "other variables" could shrink that number to as little as $156,738,389.00 by season's end. Progress. I think on the field the question on everyone's mind is how will the Philadelphia Phillies match up against our starting rotation of Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald.
Artistry: Kevin Correia sells tickets. I think it's striking that Correia compiled his 5.40 ERA in San Diego, one of the best pitchers' parks in baseball. Thank goodness our bullpen is so strong.
More Buccos analysis and predictions, after the jump...
Finesse: Correia is a bonafide top-of-the-rotation guy, but the guy I'm excited about is Charlie Morton. A 27-year-old prospect coming off a 2-12 season with a 7.57 ERA. How is he only our 4th starter?
On the subject of statistics, are you doing fantasy baseball this year? If you recall, you assisted me with my brief reentry into the fantasy baseball world last season, and I didn't finish in last place. I finished in second to last. I think my problem was that I only knew players from the last time I had done fantasy baseball -- in 1999. Much to my dismay, guys who were good in 1999 weren't necessarily still good in 2010.
Artistry: Can't do it this year because, despite appearances, I have a job. But if, as expected, we're pulling in seven figures worth of ad revenue by 2012, sign me up for next spring. The thing that is legitimately compelling about the Bucs this year is the fact that they do seem to have three potential thoroughbreds in Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata. McCutchen is essentially a proven commodity now. What do you expect from the other guys? How much mileage do you think we can get out of these kids before we trade them for a relative of Adam LaRoche and three middling prospects?
Finesse: If history has proven anything, it's that while you might finish in last place without a guy named LaRoche on your team, you will definitely finish in last place with a guy named LaRoche on your team. Unless you're the Braves. But back to the positives. Yes, McCutchen, Alvarez, and Tabata seem to be legitimate major league players, and I'll throw Pittsburgh's own Neil Walker in that mix even though I'm too lazy to look up his stats. Always nice when your 25-man major league roster has 4 legitimate major leaguers. As for McCutchen, I'm a big fan, but sometimes I think the hype is a little overboard. He was .286 with 16 homers, 56 RBI, and 33 SB last year and I'm going to assume that he was batting somewhere around the middle of the order. Is 56 RBI enough? Or is it attributable to him being surrounded by garbage in the lineup? Or is he already counting down his time until he is a free agent?
Artistry: We really can't go far enough in hyping McCutchen. I have it on good authority that he will definitely leave Pittsburgh, either as a free agent or through a trade. Really, I have a source. In the meantime, I think we're obligated to turn him into the second coming of Barry Bonds, so we can demand at least two LaRoche cousins for him in a trade. The Bucs will bat him third on opening day, and he will be protected by the fearsome Lyle Overbay in the cleanup spot. I just looked this up.
Finesse: Just to be clear, you are talking about Lyle Overbay, not to be confused with longstanding Pittsburgh villain Lyle Odelein. Does Overbay also think Matthew Barnaby's wife is "god-awful to look at"?
Artistry: Ah, yes, Cornelius, from Planet of the Apes. Different guy. This is Lyle Overbay, who hit .243 last year. The biggest star on the Pirates may turn out to be new manager Clint Hurdle. He's showing a lot of enthusiasm. I look for him to bring it every night.
Finesse: When you are talking about a baseball manager bringing it, you're talking about a 65 year-old man putting on skin tight pants to sit still for 3 hours while eating. For Clint Hurdle, it's already been broughten.
Does any part of you feel bad for Hurdle? He's in a no-win situation. Not because there are two equally bad alternatives but because the only alternative is literally not winning.
Artistry: Nah. The only thing the guy needs to do is make periodic trips to the mound. He'll just have to do it earlier than other managers. Clint Hurdle is in a great position. All he can do here is over-achieve. If he manages to show a little fire and keep his sense of humor while losing less than a hundred games, they'll name a street after him. Any predictions?
Finesse: Let's break out my tried and true Pirate Prediction Formula. The formula starts at the eternal goal for these Buccos: 81 wins. Then, we apply the "variables."
- The Charlie Morton-effect: Subtract 10.
- McCutchen, Tabata, Walker, Alvarez being decent: Add 5.
- Clint Hurdle seeming like a nice guy: Add 1.
- Charlie Morton-effect part 2: Subtract 4.
- If Zach Duke is still on the team: Subtract 5.
- If you just found out Duke was on Arizona from a Google search, Subtract 5 anyway because we must have gotten someone horrible for him.
- Sold out crowd on a few fireworks nights: Add 2.
- Salary dumps at deadline: Subtract 5.
- General indifference after finding they are 10-games out on May 1st: Subtract 4
- Because they are the Pirates: Subtract 1
- Hope that this will one day go away: Add 0
Artistry: Can't argue with your formula. Add 2 because Dejan Kovacevic is a reassuring presence in the clubhouse. 62-100. Let's Go Bucs.