The trees are blooming, the sun is shining (sort of), and the calendar finally says April. That means one thing in Pittsburgh: it’s time for a brand new season for the Battling Bucs! I think we can all agree that we’re better off forgetting the 2016 version of the Pittsburgh Pirates, am I right? But before we finally turn the page to cleanse our wounds from last year’s sudden decline, we shall revisit the 2016 season for a quick second. After all, no team that’s ever been successful hasn’t taken the time to do a self-assessment in order to learn from their past mistakes (even if it’s coming from some dipshit blogger).
The Pirates started off the 2016 season with a rather optimistic tone by sweeping the Cardinals (a team they rarely seem to beat) in their first three games. Building off early momentum, the Pirates finished the opening month of the season with a solid record of 15-9. That mark was good enough for second place in the NL Central, trailing 3 games behind the first place Cubs (you can already see where this is going).
Then, in May, Pittsburgh’s
favorite ex-favorite Korean, Jung-Ho Kang, returned from knee surgery to hit two bombs in his season debut.
The season was moving along swimmingly. The Cubs kept winning, but damn it, so too, were the Buccos.
Then, Ryan Vogelsong’s face got absolutely obliterated by a fastball.
If there was ever a moment to turn back and identify when the Pirates’ 2016 season went wrong, this was it. Never good to see one of your only decent starting pitchers fall over and look like he just died in front of your face after taking a 91 mph heater directly to the cheek/eye socket. If anyone knew what was in store for the rest of the year, it was the god damn Pirate Parrot.
With the injury train only beginning to take off, The Bucs finished May at a very respectable mark of 29-22, now trailing 6.5 games to the Cubs. It was at this point in the season where the 2016 Pirates saw the writing on the wall. They had two choices: 1. Either keep plugging away in hopes of securing their fourth consecutive wild card berth, or 2. Start sucking immediately because there was no chance in hell they were going to end up catching the Cubs. And inevitably, the Pirates selected door #2.
In June, key injuries began riddling the Pirates’ lineup as both ace, Gerrit Cole, and catcher, Fransisco Cervelli, made their way to the disabled list. With the pitching staff beginning to deteriorate faster than your standards after three shots of fireball, the Buccos had no choice but to lean on prospects to stop the bleeding. Both Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl were eventually called up to make their Major League debuts. Unfortunately, even with the addition of two promising young arms, the Pirates’ hopes to qualify for a fourth consecutive postseason berth were essentially destroyed by one bad month. The Bucs finished June with a record of 9-19 (or 38-41 overall) and were left with a mountain too high to climb. With the fucking Cubs continuing to win basically every single game, the Pirates found themselves 14 games back from the Cubs and now in 3rd place in the NL Central.
The rest of the Pirates’ 2016 season can be summarized by the following: substandard play from their key players (CC: Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and
Jung-Ho Kang), trades, and more call ups. Prior to the trade deadline, the Pirates said goodbye to all-star closer, Mark Melancon, and former ace, Francisco Liriano. They also managed to trade starting pitcher, Jon Niese, back to the Mets after acquiring him less than nine months earlier for Neil Walker (safe to say the Mets made out on that deal). And somehow, the Pirates managed to acquire starting pitcher, Ivan Nova, from the Yankees for essentially no return.
The 2016 season ended in an oddly familiar way for the Pirates as they finished the year with a very mediocre 78-83 record – their first losing season in four years. It was a swift kick in the dick to watch the Pirates go from a 98 win team in 2015 to 3rd place and 25 games back from the NL Central-winning Cubs in 2016. While we can all scratch our heads and wonder what the hell happened to Andrew McCutchen, it also seems as if pitching coach Ray Searage’s sorcery has worn off a bit. I’d be remiss to mention the fact that there were actually a few bright spots in 2016, though.
For starters, Starling Marte played out of his skull. In 129 games, Marte finished the 2016 season with a .311 BA, 152 hits, .818 OPS, and 47 stolen bases. He also added his second consecutive Gold Glove by making plays like this look routine in left field:
The Pirates also got a glimpse at their next generation of starting pitchers by calling up aforementioned prospects Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl, along with Tyler Glasnow. In addition, the Pirates finally ended their long-term search of finding somebody capable of playing more than 20 games at first base by calling up top prospect Josh Bell from the minors. It also didn’t hurt to see Ivan Nova tear it up in meaningless games after coming over from New York.
So yeah, the 2016 wasn’t a very good one, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any hope for the future. That’s all I really want to revisit from last season, though. Let’s all hope the Pirates decided to do some voodoo shit like bury Jon Niese’s jersey from last year and move on with their lives because I don’t think any of us are capable of enduring another 20 consecutive losing seasons.
And finally, don’t forget to read part two of my 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates preview tomorrow where I, you know, actually preview the season to come.