I know that most of you know North Shore Nine as a blog, but did you know that we also do a podcast? Yep, every Wednesday night at 9(ish). On these shows, I tend to get a little riled up and let my mouth say words before my brain can process a thought.
It happened again last night. While discussing the complete and utter joke of a pitching rotation for the final 2 months of 2023, I got a little bit heated. I may or may not have said that Ben Cherington has no idea what he is doing, described the 2 man rotation as malpractice, and disclosed my concern going into 2024. I still believe both of those things for the most part, but I had a moment of self-reflection after the show.
You see, way back in 2012, the Pirates finished the season with 79 wins. It was a collapse of epic proportions. The avalanche of losses that year makes post-April of 2023 look like a light flurry. 2012 sucked. Badly. Also, come to think of it, maybe the Pirates were who the Mayans were referring to.
Anywho, 2013 didn’t look much better. The 2012 rotation of AJ Burnett, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, Erik Bedard (released mid-season), Jeff Karstens, and Wandy Rodriguez doesn’t inspire much confidence. Burnett, McDonald, and Rodriguez were really the only 3 arms of that group you believed you could count on going into 2013. Jeff Locke had a cup of coffee and I’m not sure that anyone had faith in Charlie Morton after an ugly 3 1/2 years and Tommy John.
The point is, that the Pirates had to add to a tattered rotation. Former number one pick Gerrit Cole was close, but in all reality, they had to find 3 arms.
Enter Francisco Liriano. During a time when Ray Searage and Jim Benedict were the Chip and Joanna Gaines of Major League Baseball, Liriano was the ultimate fixer-upper. The stuff played, man. He just had no idea where it would go. Initially, Liriano signed a 2-year deal worth $12.75 million. That contract was voided and replaced after he decided to place himself on the weird baseball injury list. Either way, Liriano put together one of the best seasons we’ve seen from a Pirates pitcher. There were points where he looked unhittable.
Next comes Jeff Locke. Let’s be honest, I don’t know how Locke put together a few years of respectable numbers. 2013 was his best year. He finished the season with a 3.52 ERA and made his only All-Star appearance. Locke danced through raindrops for most of the season, but results wise he finished rock solid. Do the Pirates have someone in the organization who can put together a Locke-esque season? You never know.
Finally, Gerrit Cole. I can’t make any jokes with this one. We’ve seen it. Dude was the first overall pick for a reason. He was and is good, obviously.
There were other things that happened in 2013. Jonathan Sanchez was signed and quickly sent packing after he did the Lord’s work against the Cardinals. Wandy Rodriguez suffered essentially a career-ending injury. James McDonald turned into a pumpkin.
This is the point of a story where Michael Lewis would completely ignore the 26-year-old superstar on the team and pretend that the analytically-minded front office found a way to win with limited resources. *LA Knight Voice* Na-Na, Andrew McCutchen exists. Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez were in their prime. There were pieces on the roster. Don’t fret, though, Pirates fans. The Pirates have a guy in the organization with MVP potential. Is he coming off a broken fibula, might not be able to play shortstop, and strikes out a lot? Yeah, but he could be an MVP candidate if everything goes right.
Fast forward to 2024. The Pirates have one arm. They have to add. We’ve talked about it at nauseam. Without additions, this team will be back in 2021 territory.
Are the Pirates going to find a guy with elite stuff, coming off a stretch of bad years, who accidentally breaks his arm trying to scare his kids on Christmas, becomes even cheaper, and then puts together 161 innings with a 3.02 ERA? Anything is possible.
Could Paul Skenes have a Gerrit Cole-like 2024? It’s certainly possible. He has the potential. Unfortunately, we’re still looking at June as an arrival time best-case scenario.
Is there a chance that JT Brubaker comes back from Tommy John and throws 100+ innings with a 3.26 ERA after multiple years of underperforming? For sure, guys do that all the time.
The Pirates could find a way to be in contention this year. Stay tuned, I hear pigs can fly.