Tha Sports Junkies 101

2016 Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates Ll Phil via


Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were sellers at the trade deadline, but now they look like a potential playoff team

Many Pittsburgh Pirates fans were surprised when they traded All-Star closer Mark Melancon and starting pitcher Francisco Liriano at the trade deadline. The Pirates were still in contention for a wild card spot but signaled as if they were throwing in the towel on this season.

Melancon was fantastic for the Pirates before being traded to the Washington Nationals. In 45 games, he pitched to a 1.51 ERA and recorded 30 saves. He was the lock-down closer that every team dreams of having which is why many were confused by the move to trade him away.

Liriano was less important to the success of the Pirates. In 21 starts, he recorded a 5.46 ERA and had a win/loss record of 6-11. His -0.6 WAR proved that he was a liability more than he was an asset.

The Pirates did make an addition to their starting staff in order to replace the spot left by Liriano. That addition was New York Yankees starter Ivan Nova. In 4 starts for the Pirates since the trade deadline, Nova has pitched to a 3.20 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. Nova’s 0.7 WAR is 1.3 wins above Liriano. This means that Nova has meant more to the Pirates this season but Nova has only made 4 starts so that stat may be inflated a little.

Since the “sell-off” at the trade deadline, the Pirates have posted a 15-10 record and have pulled to within 0.5 games of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild card. For a team that is 15 games back in their division, their only hope of a playoff berth is a wild card spot. After a win over the Atlanta Braves on August 2nd, the Pirates have improved their record from 53-51 to 67-61.

A major key to the Pirates success during this stretch has been outfielder Gregory Polanco. On the season, Polanco is hitting .274 with 20 home runs and 76 RBI’s. Starling Marte has also been very solid for the Pirates this season. He is leading the team with a .307 batting average while also clubbing 8 home runs and driving in 45 runs. Marte also leads the team with 140 hits and a 2.7 WAR.

Andrew McCutchen is also performing well this season. He is batting to the tune of a .252 average with 18 home runs and 56 RBI’s.

Roughly one month after the trade deadline, the Pirates seem to be doing just fine without their All-Star closer. What was meant to be a sale year for the Pirates has turned into a possible playoff berth. Maybe this is what the Pirates front office was planning the whole time. Get rid of the star closer, bring in some prospects for the future, replace Liriano with a better option, and chase down the second wild card.

If the Pirates do claim the second wild card spot, they will be facing a tough one game play-in game on the road. While they have a great ace in Gerrit Cole, they may not have the talent to make a long playoff run. If they can keep players like Polanco, Marte and McCutchen healthy and productive, it will be interesting to see just how far the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates can go this season.