By Mike Harakel

If I would have asked any intelligent baseball fan at the beginning of the year where the Pittsburgh Pirates would have finished this season odds are I would have gotten a lot of last place or second to last place in the National League Central. Look at the standings on July 20th and who is tied for the division lead with said Brewers and a game up on the Cards? The team with the longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in North American pro sports, the Pittsburgh Pirates. How have they managed to, so far, turn around what has become a losing culture?

Smart Pickups –  Pittsburgh has turned cast offs in other organizations into solid additions to their team, especially in the pitching staff. Kevin Correia has double digit wins after being throw out by the Giants and Padres, James McDonald got out of the disaster that is the Dodgers and has shown he’s capable and I bet the Yankees wish they had the man with probably the best nickname in baseball, Jeff “River Wizard” Karstens. Eighteen walks in one hundred plus innings is definitely impressive, not to mention a pristine 2.28 ERA (best pitcher on my fantasy team currently besides Weaver and Kershaw. Shebang!). Who else came over with Karstens? Danny McCutchen, who has put up a solid season. Not to mention the seasons coming in from Jose Veras and Chris Resop. How good has Joel Hanrahan been this season? Imagine the Nationals with him and Storen this year. Nuts!

The Kids – Andrew McCutchen, 24, should need no introduction right now (except for the majority of the voters for the All Star game apparently). Neil Walker, 25, is registering a solid first full season, currently leading the team with 62 RBI. The love of Neil Huntington’s life, Jose Tabata, 22, was putting up some numbers swiping 14 bags in 71 games even with a pedestrian line of .265/.354/.354. Tabata’s replacement, the speedster Alex Pressley, 25, has been tearing it up batting lead off. All of this with Pedro Alvarez struggling when healthy. The best news for Pirates fans? Lots of minor league talent, including big Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole.

Clint Hurdle – Anybody remember what this guy did with the Rockies in 2007? How about the job he did as the Rangers hitting coach last year? The minute he walked in the door to the Pirates he said we’re winning and we’re winning now. Most dismissed it. Why wouldn’t they? They’re the Pirates. Hurdle is a big part to this machine. He’s got them playing like a team and most importantly he has more fans coming out to PNC.

The success so far has been all well and good, but they need another bat if they want to hang around. Beltran won’t go to Pittsburgh. Josh Willingham is my bet to end up a Pirate. I even heard Hunter Pence’s name thrown around by GM Neil Huntington. Any of those names will do.

Should be an interesting eleven days in the Steel City.

One Response to “How are the Pirates in first place?”

  1. Tim Thompson says:

    Good stuff, I tell you what with those guys doing what they are doing, for surely making the playoffs I think.

    Like your picks for stories. Check out my blog.

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