First Pitch: The Expectations Have Changed

Remember when all we talked about over the off-season was whether the Pirates would improve on their win total from 2011 season? Here we are on September 6th, and they’ve matched that win total. They’re a lock for improvement from the 2011 record. Yet Pirates fans aren’t talking about the improvement.

Remember when the only thing people focused on was breaking the losing streak? It reached irrational levels, to the point where people wanted to make trades just to get to 82 wins. The Pirates only need to go 10-16 over their remaining games to finish above .500. And that seems to be an afterthought.

Coming in to the year, the expectations were on lesser “goals”. I use that word loosely because improving over a previous year’s record or finishing over .500 aren’t goals. They’re just checkpoints on the way to the real goal: contending. Most Pirates fans didn’t expect the team to contend until top prospects like Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon arrived. But now they are contenders, maybe a year earlier than expected, and the expectations have changed.

The only thing Pirates fans are focused on right now is the playoff race (well, a playoff race and the home attendance). And that’s how it should be. That’s how it should have been all along. The goal was always to be a contender. I think Pirates fans were so beaten down by the constant losing that it made it seem impossible for the team to ever compete again.

There still may be some hesitation to think that the team can contend in future years — a feeling that this year is a fluke and the only real shot the team has to contend. But I think that’s just left over feelings that everything will go wrong for the Pirates. I can’t imagine this is their best chance to contend. Not when Cole and Taillon will arrive in the next few years with most of the key players on this team still around. Not once Starling Marte gets more experience under his belt. Not with other prospects arriving, and other younger players continuing to progress. There’s a reason we didn’t expect the team to contend this soon. We were counting on all of those aspects for the team to contend. Their chances in future years will only improve.

For this year, they’re definitely still in it. A series win over the Astros shouldn’t be celebrated. It should be expected. And following the series the Pirates are 1.5 games back from the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot, and tied with the Dodgers. And the best part is we can ignore whether the team will improve, and we can ignore the losing streak, and just focus on what matters: a playoff race.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates beat the Astros 6-3.

**Pirates Notebook: Pirates Match 2011 Win Total; Walker Getting Close to Return.

**Prospect Watch: Heredia Finishes Strong; Indy and DSL Lose Playoff Games

**Heredia Finishes Season on a High Note; Features a New Curveball.

**Holt’s Whirlwind Season Gives Him Opportunity to Finish in the Bigs.

**Minor League Schedule: 9/6/12.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • L G

    I think this year IS the big chance UNTILL Cole and Tallion arrive.
    Next year the Brewers are presumably better, but most importantly the Astros are gone.
    Those 10+ relatively easy wins or so can’t be easy to replace.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      The Brewers are not going to be better next year. I see them re-trenching for 1-2 years on payroll and attempting to build up their moribund farm system. Something for everyone to remember about the Astros leaving — The Reds, Cards, and Brewers also don’t get to fatten up on them, either.

  • Lee Young

    I still want 82 wins first! I want the monkey off of our backs. THEN, once we get there (after our amazing 12 game win streak we’re currently on….lol) I want playoffs. Let’s just go back to doing what we were doing earlier and win series. Ten more wins!!! The sooner the better!

  • leadoff

    But now they are contendera
    ——————————————
    Said that many times early in the year, but on deaf ears. Until you are out of a race you are always a contender.
    I
    don’t put a lot into Cole and Tallion arriving to save the day, it
    might take them a couple years to adjust, they could be so-so when they
    get here.
    I think looking at future players like Polanco, Bell, Dickerson and Hanson arriving are just as important.
    Huntington
    showed this year he has a new toy to work with and I would not grade
    him out well on how he used the new toy, the toy being players ready to
    play from AAA.

  • piratemike

    Sorry to disagee with you Tim but this team is not a contender and 10 more wins are going to be really hard to come by.
    .
    They got swept by the Brewers lost the first game to the Astros and won the next two only because the Astros played like the Keystone Kops. No other team the rest of the way is going to give up runs the way the Astros did and without that help the Bucs are going to find it hard to win 10 games.
    .
    If they are going to improve next year they will have to get the same type of years out of JMac and Burnett for the whole year and find two more pitchers that can compete on their level and make alot of changes to the lineup,bench and find a closer and other help for the BP. I don’t think that Hungton can accomplish all that in the off season with out massive spending and you know that isn’t going to happen.