The Pittsburgh Pirates possess a solid core of a team and will look to reach the playoffs for a fourth straight season. Their 2016 roster has a new look after dealing pitcher Charlie Morton and second baseman Neil Walker, along with letting slugging first baseman Pedro Alvarez walk this offseason. Pittsburgh has a strong pitching rotation with lead off ace Gerrit Cole followed by lefty Francisco Liriano. Right-hander A.J Burnett retired after the 2015 season and the Pirates are hoping to fill the hole with Jon Niese who came over from the Mets in the Walker deal and Ryan Vogelsong who signed via free agency from the San Francisco Giants. In the bullpen, Mark Melancon is Pittsburgh’s go to closer with lefty Tony Watson as one of the top setup men in baseball. Veteran utility-man Josh Harrison will take over second base duties while at shortstop, Jody Mercer is hoping for a rebound season at the plate. After the departure of Alvarez, first base will most likely be a platoon situation between veteran Michael Morse and John Jaso who came to Pittsburgh as a free agent this season. David Freese will take on third base and should also contribute nicely to the offense in 2016. The Pirates feature possibly the best outfield in MLB anchored by center fielder Andrew McCutchen who has been voted to the last five All Star Games. In left field, Starling Marte is younger than McCutchen and is a threat with both his crazy power and speed. Right fielder Gregory Polanco is only 24 years old and possesses all the tools to be a star in this league.
Despite a very crowded top of the NL Central with both the Chicago Cubs and St Louis Cardinals improving, this could be the year for the Pirates to win the division and not have to participate in the Wild Card winner take all game. Fans should be sure to purchase your Pittsburgh Pirates tickets and come on out to watch this talented team play all season long.
History of PNC Park
During the 1990’s the baseball landscape began to change when teams sought out new ballparks to generate more revenue. The Pittsburgh Pirates, who were playing at Three Rivers Stadium wanted a new venue not only for the potential revenue, but for the amenities that new ballparks featured that were lacking at Three Rivers Stadium. In 1991, Mayor Sophie Masloff proposed a new 44,000 seat venue for the Pirates on the north side of the city near Three Rivers Stadium. Over the next five years, little progress was made, the team wasn’t performing well and in 1994 the team was put up for sale and relocation was a possibility.
Luckily, Kevin McClatchy purchased the Pirates and worked with the city on plans for a new ballpark. Originally dubbed Forbes Field II, the team began plans for a new venue that would be similar to their home before Three Rivers Stadium, Forbes Field. Financing was approved for the $216 million ballpark which would be built adjacent to Three Rivers Stadium and ground was broken in April 1999. PNC Financial Services purchased the stadium’s naming rights, hence the name PNC Park.
On April 3, 2001, Pittsburgh played their first game at PNC Park against the Cincinnati Reds. With a capacity for 38,362 Pirates ticket holders, PNC is MLB’s third smallest ballpark. Its exterior is a limestone facade with terra cotta tile and dramatic masonry arches along the home plate entryway. Statues of Pirates Hall of Famers Bill Mazeroski, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Honus Wagner sit outside the park for fans to take a trip down memory lane. Perhaps the most amazing feature of the park is the panoramic views of the downtown Pittsburgh skyline, the Allegheny River and Roberto Clemente Bridge. The main grandstand offers two main seating decks and fans can walk around the entire main concourse without losing sight of the field or the skyline. The right field fence is 21 feet high in honor of Roberto Clemente’s number and contains an out of town scoreboard.
PNC Park has many amenities that could not be found at Three Rivers Stadium. They include a restaurant located above the left field bleachers which overlooks both the playing field and the city and two extravagant food courts. The outer promenade of PNC Park known as River Walk, gives fans views of the city, field and the river while they enjoy the game.
Although many ballparks have been constructed since 2001, none offer the stunning views and cozy setting of PNC Park which keeps fans buying their Pirates tickets and coming back year after year.
Pittsburgh Pirates Histroy
The Pittsburgh Pirates are in second place in the NL Central, sitting just a couple of games behind the Cincinnati Reds and excelling at PNC Park. Manager Clint Hurdle will need to get this baseball team to rally on the road to either overtake the Reds or make a serious run for one of the two wild card spots in the National League. Thus, Pittsburgh Pirates tickets come with the most hope since Barry Bonds roamed the outfield in a normal-sized cap.
The team's numbers are not impressive when observed from opening day. The offense still fails to score runs and the starters still fail to put up the quality starts to rationalize each loss as a failure of half an inning. However, the Pirates have also the third-best ERA in the MLB. That last stat speaks to the excellence of the bullpen.
When adjusted for the last month, the Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the most prolific baseball teams in the National League and the starters appear capable of going three deep instead of just two. The one hitter who has remained dominant throughout has been center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who has been having an MVP-type season. The one starter to consistently frustrate opposing batting orders is James McDonald, who is having a breakout season in his fourth year in the league at the age of 27.
McCutchen is batting .339 with a .397 OBP, 12 homeruns, and 14 stolen bases in 18 attempts. He is truly a five-tool baseball player and is the focal point of the batting order. Shortstop Clint Barnes, third baseman Pedro Alvarez, and a host of other hitters have managed to bolster truly dreadful numbers in the past month. Now their seasons are simply disappointments overall. Alvarez has at least been a source of power, at least relative to the rest of the team. He has 13 homeruns but has not been able to hit the power alleys for enough doubles to raise his slugging percentage to a number greater than .470.
McDonald has 10 quality starts in 14 games with a 0.95 WHIP, 2.10 ERA, and commendable 8.27 K/9. He should have a much better record than 6-3 but has been hindered by his own team's hitting. He has a partner at the top of the rotation in A.J. Burnett. Burnett may fold in Yankee Stadium, but he has been great at PNC Park. As a Pittsburgh Pirate he has 8 quality starts in 11 games with a 1.28 WHIP, 3.52 ERA, and decent 7.57 K/9. The offense has showed up for his starts, which is why he is 7-2. Starter Kevin Correia has been steadily improving his numbers after an awful May. These three need to pitch well to save the bullpen, which cannot sustain this type of excellence if they have to pitch half a game every day.