Pittsburgh Pirates fans had little to cheer about in 2005. The only real bright spot for the club was the continued improvement of outfielder Jason Bay (.206 32 101) who played in all 162 games in 2005 for the team. Beyond Bay there was little offense to speak of for the entire season. Only 1st basemen Daryle Ward (.280 12 63) and newcomer Brad Eldred (.
221 12 27) did much while sophomore 2nd baseman Jose Castillo (.268 11 53) provided the rest of offense for the Buc's 2005 lineup.
Pittsburgh's starting pitching in 2006 was almost non-existent. Dave Williams (10-11 4.41) led the staff with 10 wins, while Kip Wells ( 8-18 5.
09), newcomers Mark Redman (5-15 4.90) joined Oliver Perez (7-5 5.85), rookie Zach Duke (8- 1 1.81 in 14 game starts) and Josh Fogg (6-11 5.05) to complete the rest of the Pirate rotation.
Closer Jose Mesa (2-8 4.76 37 saves) managed to appear in 55 games in order to help keep things interesting. The Pirates finished the season with a last place 67-95 record.
Off Season Moves:
General Manager Dave Littlefield addressed the Pirates offensive needs by signing free agent slugger Jeromy Burnitz (.258 24 87) as well as first baseman Sean Casey (.
312 8 58) who came in a trade with the Reds for lefty starter Dave Williams. Third baseman Joe Randa (.275 17 68) was also signed via free agency from San Diego.
The Pirates also picked up free agent reliever Roberto Hernandez (2.58 ERA in 67 appearances for the Mets in '05) in order to fill out the rest of their 2006 bullpen.
Expect Jason Bay to have another big year for the Pirates.
The addition of Casey Randa and Burnitz for a small market team is impressive. All three players should be able to add to their 2005 numbers in this lineup. Randa in particular will be interesting to watch. Expect Jose Castillo and Ward's numbers to also go up with the better protection they will receive by the additions.
Hernandez enjoyed a comeback season with the Mets proving to be a reliable arm in their bullpen. The Mets didn't want to take the chance that he would repeat his 2005 performance so they allowed him to leave via free agency. The Pirates are hopeful that the Mets loss is their gain. Hernandez maintained good velocity throughout the season and kept the Mets in race for the 2005 NL East.
Of course Littlefield has improved his power from his corner infield spots, and since Randa and Casey are respectable at getting on base the Pirate offense should be better in 2006.
The Pirates will rely on Duke to pitch in more games in 2006 and hope he is a player they can build the rotation around. Still the starting pitching is shaky. The Pirates will be looking to get to at least a.500 record in 2006, somewhere they haven't been since the 1992 season. They remain a young team with a lot of pluses.
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By: Jack Scrafford