After April, the Pirates were a mediocre 13-15. After posting a .500 record in May and .593 win percentage in June, the Pirates were Pittsburgh's favorite team. Then came the collapse. Jerry Meals calls Julio Lugo safe in a 19 inning marathon against the Braves, the rotation gets pummeled by the Padres and their NL worst offense, Derrek Lee breaks his wrist and the lineup suffers tremendously.
No, that's not Matt Diaz's season high batting average. It was the Pirates' win percentage in August. As I stated before, the season would hinge on the Pirates' ability to survive the month of August. Obviously, they did not and now, with one month left in the season, a 19th straight season of losing seems likely.
Still, the Buccos can fight to the finish in the season's final month. To start September, the Pirates look to be on the right track with a 3-2 record while Derrek Lee is 9-13 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI's since his return from the DL. With a brutal August schedule behind them, the Pirates have a lighter load in September. After taking 2 of 3 from the Cubs, the Pirates defeated the Astros in a rain soaked afternoon game. While Tropical Storm Lee may provide issues with games this week, inevitably, the Pirates will face the Astros two more times before hosting the last place Florida Marlins. In their remaining 21 games, the Pirates will play 9 against teams with winning records. While the Pirates are still winless on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers, where they will finish their season, they are 6-7 against the Cardinals, 2-1 against the Diamondbacks and 8-4 against the Reds.
The Pirates will need to win 17 of their final 21 games to finish with a winning record. While that seems doubtful, it can be argued a 70+ win season would be a huge improvement. Especially if Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and Neil Walker finish strong down the final stretch and James McDonald can continue his second half surge to complete the year. Since the All Star break, McDonald has a 3.26 ERA with a .234 batting average against. He will definitely be one of the favorites to be Pittsburgh's opening day starter in 2012.
Down on the Farm
2010 first round pick Jameson Taillon finished his first full professional season with Class-A West Virginia. The 19 year old had a solid season posting a 3.98 ERA while striking out 97 and walking just 22 over 92.2 innings pitched. Taillon's fastball was consistently in the mid 90s throughout the season while his curveball and slider remained devastating and he never missed a start. If Jameson Taillon had any difficulty, it was locating his electric fastball within the strike zone. He did not miss in and out as much as he missed up and down. The Pirates would still like to see Taillon pound the lower half of the strike zone with his fastball but overall, he had an excellent first year. He could finish next season in AA Altoona if all goes well.
Meanwhile, Robbie Grossman prepares for the first round of the playoffs down in Bradenton for A+ Marauders. A sixth round bonus baby in the 2008 draft, Grossman had a breakout season, setting a high-A record with 104 walks, 127 runs scored and 13 home runs. The 104 walks speak volumes to Grossman's plate discipline, an aspect in developing hitters that has been undervalued until the last ten years. Robbie Grossman should start in AA Altoona next season and has a serious chance to be a top-10 prospect in the organization.