Thursday, March 28, 2024

2024 Pittsburgh Pirates Predictions

I've learned long ago that what's important are the people that show up, not those who don't. So while I sent invitations to many people to participate in this 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates predictions post, I'm very excited by the group who responded. Let me introduce you to these amazing participants:

Brian McElhinny - Former operator of the fantastic blog, Raise The Jolly Roger. Still writes about the Pirates at @rtjr.

Amanda Godsey - Steelers and Pitt writer for The Tribune-Democrat. You can also follow her at Twitter at @amandafgodsey.

Josh - Even though I'm currently his chief rival, I really appreciate that Josh is always willing to participate in any of my silly blog post ideas. Josh writes the outstanding blog Josh's World.

Gary Morgan - One of the most prolific Pirates writers/podcasters around, most notably as the co-editor of Steel City Pirates.

Sean - It's me! I write Sean's Ramblings. Thanks for being here.

The Moose: My now 13 year-old son. I really hope he doesn't have a Twitter account!

Jim Rosati - One of people behind the Pirates' blog/podcast/site North Shore Nine.

1. Even though he's not on the opening day roster, there are high expectations for the overall #1 pick in last year's MLB draft, Paul Skenes. What do you expect from Skenes in 2024?

Brian: I expect him to come out strong in the minor leagues, but with short starts as they work to build him up for a professional season, which is much longer than college and will eventually have him pitching every 5 days rather than every 7. I think their care with his innings and workload is going to be his biggest limiting factor - not his ability or readiness from a talent or preparation standpoint. Once he is up, which I'd guess is the early summer, I expect him to be a good - maybe not great - major league starting pitcher right out of the gate, with enormous potential to get even better quickly and get to ace level. Again, the innings are going to be severely limited and that will frustrate people, but it's understandable. 

Amanda: I expect Skenes will be in Pittsburgh sometime this year, maybe in May or June if all goes well. I’m expecting big things from him; he has great stuff and should turn into the Pirates ace. That may not happen by the end of this season, but it’ll be exciting to see what he can do in the majors.

Josh:  I am going to be totally optimistic here and say he has 10-12 wins after finally being called up. Finishes top 3 in ROY.

Gary: I expect Paul to get on schedule, stretch out and be a regular contributor by mid season to the big club. Caveat is I think they'll limit his innings to 160 or so.

Sean: 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings. He's going to have the exact same numbers as Spencer Strider in 2022 (and also finish 2nd in the rookie of the year).

The Moose: I think Skenes will have an amazing season. He will have a 3.25 ERA and a lot of strikeouts.

Jim: I think he will spend at least a month in the minors, but I think there is a very real chance he is up before mid-June. Like any rookie, he will probably go through some bumps, but the stuff is so good that even with those bumps, he should very much be an above average starting pitcher in his first taste of the big leagues. I'm going to guess he makes about 15 starts and has an ERA hovering around 4.00 and that we will see a whole lot of heat and positive signs for the future. 

2. After missing nearly all of 2023 with a fractured ankle, Oneil Cruz is back! What do you think his stat line (home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, anything else) will be for this year?

Brian: Man. I want to go high on all these, I absolutely love watching this dude and think the sky is the limit - there's just that Pirate fan part of the brain that tells you to pump the brakes and is always fearing the worst, which we basically experienced with his injury. I will go 35 HR, 25 SB, 90 RBI. 

The biggest thing I am watching is how often he can get on base (.300-ish career so far, want to see that up 20+ points) and how often he can avoid striking out (get below 1 per game). You know he will hit the ball hard.

Amanda: 30 HRs, 90-100 RBIs, 25 stolen bases.

Josh: 24 HR/66 RBIs/20 SBs/.252 AVG

Gary: He's got the capability to have a 40/40 type season. Offensively I think he'll produce, what I'm interested in is can he hang at SS?

Sean: Oneil is going to be a 25/25 hitter. I'm really hoping for at least a .333 on-base percentage.

The Moose: Cruz will have an amazing year. Cruz will hit 30 home runs, 98 RBIs, 35 stolen bases, and he will win comeback player of the year.

Jim: I am so happy he's back. Stat line, 28 homers, 85 RBI, 24 SB, and inconsistent but decent enough SS play. 

3. Who will lead the Pirates in home runs this season?

Brian: Cruz

Amanda: I’m expecting it to be Cruz, though Jack Suwinski also has a shot. If Suwinski can have shorter slumps this season compared to last, he should easily hit 30 homers.

Josh: Bryan Reynolds with 27

Gary: Cruz

Sean: Suwinski is going to hit 30+ home runs this season.

The Moose: I think there is going to be a tie. I think Jack Suwinski and Oneil Cruz will both hit 30 home runs.

Jim: Jack Suwinski

4. Skenes' girlfriend is social media star and LSU gymnast Livvy Dunne. When do you think Dunne will make her first visit to PNC Park for a Pirates game?

Brian: His first start at home - it will have a big time event feel. 

Amanda: I’m betting she’ll be there when he makes his MLB debut.

Josh: May 24th for Skenes debut against the Braves.

Gary: Don't care, didn't care, won't care.

Sean: I'm way too excited for the Livvy Dunne-Paul Skenes media coverage. It will be a step below Taylor-Travis but with more food (see the couple at Primantis or eating Smiley Cookies). Livvy will be at the May 21st Pirates game against San Francisco for Skenes major league debut.

The Moose: This is going to be a surprise to some people but I think that Livvy Dunne will come to the Pirates first home game of the season.

Jim: Livvy will be in attendance for Paul's first start at PNC Park. Let's call it May 24th vs Atlanta for Fireworks night. Let's show her what Zambelli's is all about.

5. Will former Milwaukee Brewer Rowdy Tellez be more successful on the Pirates than former Milwaukee Brewer Daniel Vogelbach?

Brian: He might stick around longer, but I have sort of a bad feeling about Tellez. Yes, there is some upside with the bat and there's a world where he regains past form and hits 30+ HRs, but there's also a world where he is the face of an underwhelming offseason. I am concerned about his defense at first as well and the impact that could have. 

Amanda: I’m hopeful he will. His stats from last year don’t look great, but Tellez had a couple injuries midseason last year that almost certainly affected his production and power at the plate. If he can stay healthy and hit around 20 homers, the signing will be a win for the Pirates. 

Josh: Tellez because I want to be optimistic.

Gary: If he's healthy he'll run into 20, so yeah probably. Plus he plays the field (albeit not well) it's more than just a DH does.

Sean: Yes! Vogelbach had a 0.6 WAR (wins above replacement) with the Pirates. Have to think Rowdy will do better (like 0.8) and maybe even get a stolen base.

The Moose: Rowdy tellez will be more successful because he was a big part of the Brewers last year to help the team make the playoffs. Rowdy Tellez was a ok hitter last year and he was better defensively then Vogelbach. Rowdy Tellez had a better batting average than Vogelbach.

Jim: No.

6. Will the Pirates be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline?

Brian: Soft buyers, or maybe neither. I think they'll be at least close to contention and there will be some pressure to make more of a push with more young talent arriving. Can't see a big splashy move though, just filling holes type stuff.

Amanda: I’m going to be optimistic and say they’ll be buyers.

Josh: Both. They will be borderline playoff contenders, trade away someone like Tellez, but also go out and bring in someone to fill a need. 

Gary: Hopefully both. I can see them both needing to move vets and needing to bring in others at different positions.

Sean: Buyers. They're going to acquire some extra starting and relief pitchers. Maybe Jose Quintana if the Mets do poorly again?

The Moose: The Pirates will be buyers because last year the Pirates started off 20-9 and the best team in the MLB if they keep consistently winning like that without key players getting hurt they would like to buy more players to push for the playoffs and have a good season. (Sean's note: I may need to talk to his English teacher about grammar and punctuation.)

Jim: Can I say both? I could see them doing sorta what they did in the early 2010's where they maybe sell off a reliever (Chapman), but add some pieces elsewhere.  

7. The answer to this probably has a lot to do with your answer to the previous question. What is your prediction of the Pirates overall record and what place will they finish in the NL central?

Brian: The spring optimism is starting to get to me, I am really tempted to go into .500+ territory, which would be right in the wild card mix, and I do think that is possible but the major league pitching they are entering the season with just isn't good enough for me to quite get there. 80-82, 3rd place. 

Amanda: 84-78 and second in the NL Central.

Josh: 79-83. I think they finish in 3rd place in the central

Gary: 84 wins, 2nd place in the NL Central.

Sean: I'm optimistic. Since I already saw Amanda and Gary go with 84, I'll predict 83-79. 3rd place in the central

The Moose: This will be a shocker to some people but the Pirates will go 90-72 and the Pirates will finish second in the division behind the amazing Cubs.

Jim: 85-77, Pirates win the NL Central

Thanks to everyone for participating! We'll have to see how we did in October. Please feel free to share your predictions in the comment section below.

Photos by Charles LeClaire-USA Today (Skenes), Pittsburgh Pirates (Cruz), Livvy Dunne's Instagram account (Dunne), Pittsburgh Pirates Instagram account (Tellez)

Friday, March 22, 2024

Just A Girl

I had a small television in my residence hall room during college, but the only way to access any stations was to get cable through Time Warner. I think I paid about $10-$15 a month for the privilege of having ABC, CBS, NBC FOX, PBS, CNN, and ESPN. I don't remember having any other stations, and I know for a fact that I did not have ESPN2, though my neighbor (who now has an Oscar, Emmy, and Pulitzer) did and let me watch the Penguins-Capitals 4 overtime Petr Nedved playoff game. 

This is a long way of writing that I did not have MTV in college, and this is way before YouTube. Therefore, at some point during my time in college, I saw the video Just a Girl by No Doubt on a break from school. The song sounded different than anything else out there. Between the music (I'd never heard of ska), Gwen Stefani's voice, and an appealing video, I loved the song instantly. 

Which brings me to 2024. Listening to SiriusXM's Hits1 station with the kids, I heard a new version of Just a Girl by Hayes Warner, Billy B, and Kevin Rudolf. These are three people who have never been in my kitchen. While I hope this attracts more people to the original No Doubt song, let's just say I'm not a fan.

Monday, March 18, 2024

Random Ramblings: March 2024

* Six-year-old Luigi is playing baseball for the first time this spring. While he is using his brothers' old helmet and bat, he got a brand new glove as well as a cup. He is completely fascinated by wearing a cup and keeps calling it his "penis cup." Fortunately, he is only using this name in the house.

* Based on the Pittsburgh Steelers off-season acquisitions, I planned a blog post about the team's 2024 soundtrack. The post was going to start with two Wilson Pickett songs in honor of the Steelers quarterback combination of Russell Wilson and Kenny Pickett. Of course, the Steelers traded Pickett to the Philadelphia Eagles making the entire post moot. I guess I need the Steelers to hire retired quarterback Philip Rivers as a member of the coaching staff or organization and sign wide receiver Phillip Dorsett from the Denver Broncos so that I can created a new playlist featuring this song:

* I haven't mentioned Lucy very much since we got her in September. She constantly wakes us up around 5:00 AM but waited until around 6:00 the first few days after we moved the clocks forward. That ended. We're back to her waking us up at 5:00 again.

* I'm really happy for the Duquesne men's basketball team winning the Atlantic-10 tournament and reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1977. The team hasn't been very good for most of my lifetime, so the Duquesne fans and graduates deserve to celebrate.

* Fun fact: Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot's son Robbie Dambrot plays for the Loudoun United soccer team.

* There is now a hawk living on our street. Oh, it's not Dominique Wilkins. I don't know when the hawk moved in, but our neighbor noticed him/her on Saturday. I'm now completely fascinated by this and really want to get some pictures and videos. This is my second attempt which isn't terrible. 

* The best view of the hawk would probably be from my kids' bedroom per the picture above of Lucy looking out the window. With the nice weather recently, the cherry blossoms have started to bloom almost earlier than ever blocking any possible view of the nest. This is clearly a first-world problem since the cherry blossoms on my street are beautiful and don't last more than two weeks. 

Monday, March 04, 2024

Sean Contacts Presidential Candidates

Virginia's Presidential primary takes place on Tuesday, March 5th. Virginia has open primaries, meaning that you show up to your polling place and simply ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot. While this generally doesn't impact the overall results, it does make things interesting. For example, in 2008, I remember some Republicans saying they would vote for Barack Obama in the primary believing he would be easier to defeat in the general election than Hillary Clinton. (I'm not sure if this is true or not since John McCain only defeated Mike Huckabee by about 45,000 votes in the 2008 Republican primary and Obama defeated Clinton by almost 300,000 votes in the Democratic primary).

So that brings us to 2024. Here are your ballots for Tuesday's primary: 

I contacted the campaigns of everyone on both the Republican and Democratic primary ballots and asked one simple question: Why should Virginians vote for you? (Or if the candidate has withdrawn, who do you support and why?)

Here are the responses:

Nothing. No one replied. Actually, I take that back. I received a "Failure Notice" that the email account I tried to reach does not exist message from Vivek Ramaswamy. I appreciate the fact that his campaign completely ended and decided to stop paying for things like email addresses.

While Sean's Ramblings isn't CNN, The Washington Post, Fox News, or any of the local news stations in the Washington, Richmond, or Virginia Beach markets, this seems like a missed opportunity for candidates to communicate directly with voters on a smaller scale. 

So where does this leave Virginia voters? My guess is that most Republicans will vote for Trump, most Democrats will vote for Biden, and others will vote for a candidate of the opposite party as a "protest" vote. And maybe candidates will want their voices heard on Sean's Ramblings in future elections!