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DFTBA Sports: Pirates That Play Baseball

10/07/2012

So we’ve reached the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season and it’s starting to become clear who will truly contend for a championship and who will fall by the wayside. The six division leaders are the Yankees, White Sox, Rangers, Nationals, Pirates and Dodgers. Wait, what? The Pirates are leading their division? The Pittsburgh Pirates? That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; the Pirates are leading their division at the midway point of the season for the first time since 1997. I know what you’re thinking: “I don’t care about the freakin’ Pirates; they’ve been irrelevant for years”. That, my friends, is exactly why I’m going to tell you about how the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates became oh-so-relevant.

Pitching. The defense of the Pirates this year is so much better than that of year’s past it’s scarcely believable. Ace Pitcher James McDonald leads their staff with an average of 2.37 earned runs per game and a 9-3 record. His ERA ranks a lofty fifth in the league while his WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) of 0.97 is sixth. However, the Pirates need not fear when McDonald is not in the line-up; fellow pitcher AJ Burnett is having a spectacular season of his own. The Yankee castoff is having a resurgence in the ‘burgh, with a thoroughly unexpected 10-2 record and an ERA of 3.68, his best since 2005. Crucially, the team’s relievers have failed to disappoint, with closer and All-Star Joel Hanrahan’s 23 saves already more than half of last year’s total of 40. The Pirates batters have had their ups and downs, but the pitching has been consistently reliable.

McCutchen. I’m just gonna throw some stats at you. He’s at the best in the league in batting average. He’s the first Pirate in history with an average of .362 or higher and 60 RBI (Runs Batted In) at the All-Star Break. He’s the first Pirate since 1904 to have 14 hits and 11 runs in a 5 game span. Centre fielder Andrew McCutchen hasn’t just been good this season, he’s been historically good. He’s been outstanding both at the plate and in the outfield, having made more than a few ridiculous catches. In an era in which elite players leave for bigger markets more often than not, McCutchen’s decision to sign a 6-year extension with Pittsburgh this past summer is indicative of how far the Pirates have come. Before, such a high-level talent would have fled the wasteland of western Pennsylvania as soon as possible. Now though, it is recognisable to McCutchen, and indeed, to all, that there is a legitimate shot of the Pirates making significant strides into the playoffs and beyond.

Zoltan. The Pirates have taken to flashing a ‘Z’ sign after important hits in games. It is, of course, a reference to the all-powerful Zoltan of the film Dude, Where’s My Car.  “It was just so terrible and stupid,” says second baseman Neil Walker. “We just pulled that from it. It’s just kind of our team way of bonding, I guess.” Beyond the silliness of it, what’s more important is that, for what seems like the first time in aeons, the Pirates actually have reason to celebrate. They’re enjoying themselves out there and, more importantly, winning.

All hail the Zoltan. All hail the Pittsburgh Pirates.

~Liam

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