As the excitement of the start of the season builds and builds, I e-sat down with Charlie Wilmoth of sister SB Nation baseball blog Bucs Dugout to talk about the two teams. You can read my answers to his questions about the Phillies here. Below, check out Charlie's answers to my five most burning questions about the Pittsburgh Pirates.
1) Will the losing season streak reach 20 this year?
Yes. Are you mocking me?
2) I've never been to PNC Park, but when I watch games played there on TV, I just want to move to Pittsburgh and spend every day of my life watching baseball at that ballpark. It's beautiful (at least on television). Is it that amazing in real life?
It's pretty great. PNC itself is the descendant of Camden Yards, but it's been interesting to see newer ballparks in Philadelphia and San Diego emulate aspects of PNC's design. I like Citizens Bank Park, but the main difference is that PNC has an ideal backdrop, with the skyline and the gold bridge, while Philadelphia has a sea of parking lots, or at least that's what it had when I went there a few years ago.
3) The Andrew McCutchen deal - is it as good for the Pirates as it seems? They locked up a dynamic young player at a key position for a long time for a reasonable amount of money (in baseball dollars). Is there anything not to be excited about with this?
No, there's no good reason not to be excited. McCutchen is young, he has a broad base of skills, he's very athletic, he plays a premium defensive position -- there's every reason to think he'll be very, very valuable for the foreseeable future, and if the Pirates get a bit of luck, he'll be one of the five or so best players in the world. I was just looking at Grady Sizemore's stats today and thinking about how there aren't any guarantees, but this is a great gamble for the Pirates. And with the ridiculous Joey Votto deal potentially changing players' expectations regarding pre-free agency extensions, the Pirates might have signed McCutchen just in time.
4) On the other hand, the A.J. Burnett deal seems like it was a dream for the Yankees - they got rid of a weak link in their rotation and found another team to pay some of the outrageous money owed him. Did the Pirates get swindled?
No. It's too bad Major League Baseball is run in such a way that one team's garbage is another team's dinner, but ultimately, you've gotta eat. Burnett's xFIP was well over a run lower than his ERA last year. He should benefit from a switch to a park that suppresses homers, as well as the move from the A.L. East to the Albert Pujols- and Prince Fielder-less N.L. Central. Spring Training bunting-drill mishap aside, Burnett has also become durable in his old age, and the Pirates' rotation can use some stability, given its inability to work deep into starts, Charlie Morton's offseason hip surgery, and Erik Bedard's irresistible attraction the disabled list -- not to mention what had been a frightening lack of depth behind Morton, Bedard, Jeff Karstens, and James McDonald.
Also, it's worth pointing out here that most of the "outrageous money" Burnett will make in the next two years will be paid by the Yankees.
5) If my math is correct, the Phillies are a dismal 13-31 at PNC Park. What's the Pirates secret against the Phils there?
There's no reason to think that's anything other than random variance, because those are barely even home games for the Pirates. When the Phillies are in town, the stands are filled with loud Philadelphia fans. Also, PNC Park is friendly to lefty-heavy teams, which the Phillies certainly have recently been. I wish there was a secret I could withhold from you, but there isn't.
Thanks Charlie. And good luck to your Pirates in not reaching number 20 despite starting 0-3 this year.