Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Two Keys to the Rotation
Most prognosticators look to this Pirate team and point to the improvement of the starting pitching as one of the main keys of the season. The reason being is that the team has added Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett to the rotation. Burnett will join the rotation at some point early this season, not at the start, due to his unfortunate bunting accident. Bedard will be the opening day starter, an honor that the Pirates typically hoist on the guy that fits the bill of "Well we don't have anyone else".
Bedard, while an improvement in joining the rotation, is not a slam dunk. Over the past 4 seasons, he has only started 54 games. Many might be hoping, that Bedard could return to the Baltimore version of himself. That at this point would be asking way too much of him. On the plus side, for once the Pirates do not need that to happen. What he did last year? That would be perfect and a vast improvement.
Burnett is coming from one of the more hitter friendly parks and divisions in baseball to Pittsburgh which will favor him pitching in PNC. It will also help that there are not nearly as many big bats in the division either. A resurgence of sorts for him would not be out of the question.
Really the true keys to the rotation, as with most of the team, is the growth of the younger players. In James McDonald and Charlie Morton, the Pirates have two pitchers with some really good stuff. Morton went through a total rework last year to tremendous results. This season, once he gets over his injury, will be key to see what kind of pitcher he really is. Can he break through and be more than a average-ish guy? If so then his improvement will lead to tremendous improvement for the team.
The same goes for James McDonald. McDonald has the size, the pitches, the movement, almost everything you would like to see. Right now though it is repeating it over and over and being able to last. McDonald has struggled in going into games later and in keeping it up as the season progresses. He had his moments last season like Morton, but if he can get things to click, it would be great to have.
Adding Burnett and Bedard are sorts of bets that they will stay healthy and thrive in the atmosphere of PNC Park and the National League Central. Adding them will be upgrades to Paul Maholm and Kevin Correia. The real key will be can Morton and McDonald get over the hump and become more than what they have done to this point? If they can then improvements in the starting pitching will help exponentially in helping to make this season better than last.