In many ways, the sweep of the Brewers just feels right. After a dubious start to 2015 at the Great American Ballpark the team appears to be back on the path to October.
October?! Already? Well, with all the predictions and projections this off-season, that’s the point, right? This year’s Pirates are today’s manifestation of yesterday’s dreams. All the draft picks, reclamation pitchers, and spare-part trades are supposed to come to roost this summer (…and next summer, and next…).
The predictions may feel, at least in part, like a bit of headline grabbing or Cinderellaism by the mainstream media. But even the tried and true Pirates followers seem to believe that this team has a little ‘next step’ in them. So Milwaukee sweep feels like they way it’s supposed to go. These Pirates should be running teams like the Brewers out of PNC with ease. But a look at these first few series may indicate that a playoff birth is as much hopeful thinking as anything else. (And maybe just an early sign of institutional entitlement from the past two seasons of success.)
Cause to worry #1: Pedro Alvarez. He’s hit four home runs: that’s good. But all the questions still remain. His 12-game OPS is a heady .900, a full 150 points above his career mark. He’s earned those extra points primarily from a quick succession of dingers. He’s streaky, so when he hits the inevitable dry spell let the hand-wringing begin.
Cause to worry #2: Gregory Polanco. The most recent addition to Pittsburgh’s holy outfield trinity is off to a start remarkably similar to his 2014 mediocrity (307/343/650 vs. 292/348/640). He tore up AAA last year and is considered one of the best young players in the game. But surely you’ll remember that Valentino Pascucci was also a AAA phenom.
Cause to worry #3: Josh Harrison. In 2014, the All Star third baseman hit .314 with 38 doubles and 18 stolen bases. He’s really fun to watch, but the rest of his career has been marked by a 282/365/648 slash line. The early part of 2015 may be a slow start. Or it could just be more in line with what we should expect from the little utility guy from Cincinnati. His April numbers (298/349/647) look surprisingly similar to his pre-2014 production.
Cause to worry #4: Francisco Liriano and AJ Burnett. These two guys will both spend time on the DL. While the pitching staff has amazingly kept opposing hitters flailing worse than the Pirates’ early-season offense, as a group they will never be this healthy at any other point during the season.
In summary, there’s plenty to fear in 2015. In addition to the potential disasters listed above, there’s Mark Melancon‘s velocity, Starling Marte‘s strike outs, Neil Walker‘s general mediocrity, Francisco Cervelli‘s breakability, and Andrew McCutchen‘s lack of hair. That doesn’t leave many guarantees on the Pirates’ roster. Expect the worst.