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Perrotto: Enjoy Pirates’ Hot Start Instead of Overthinking It

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Bryan Reynolds

The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a perfect start, but it seems that few people can enjoy it.

The Pirates have won their first five games of the season for the first time since 1983. Yet everyone keeps asking if the Pirates can sustain their success.

Certainly, the Pirates aren’t going to finish 162-0. So, they can’t sustain THAT kind of success.

However, if the question is if the Pirates can be a contending team, then the answer is maybe. Apologies for the wishy-washy answer but it is hard to gauge very much off five games of a 162-game season even if the Pirates’ performance is generating reason for optimism.

The fans are understandably leery of getting too excited. After all, this franchise has had 27 losing seasons out of the last 31. And, well, you know the expression about one-car funerals.

And, of course, last season provides a cautionary tale.

The Pirates started 20-9 and looked like they would be surprise contenders in the National League Central. The Pirates then lost 65 of their next 101 games before finishing the season with an 18-13 kick that enabled them to finish 76-86 and avoid last place in the division for the first time since 2018.

However, the Pirates have shown some good signs through five games this year.

The offense is scoring a whopping 7.8 runs a game, second in the major leagues to the Atlanta Braves (8.5). Pittsburgh’s .400 on-base percentage is the best in baseball and built in part by an MLB-best 6.5 walks a game.

It is a small sample size, of course. However, it is encouraging that six players have batting averages above .300 and four hitters have at least four RBIs.

Bryan Reynolds has already driven in eight runs and Michael A. Taylor is off to an 8-for-19 (.421) start.

The bullpen was expected to be the Pirates’ biggest strength when spring training opened. Indeed, Pirates relievers have a 1.85 ERA.

However, what has been impressive is that some key members of the bullpen are missing, including Colin Holderman (illness), Carmen Mlodzinski (forearm) and Dauri Moreta (season-ending elbow surgery). Two-time All-Star closer David Bednar looks hampered by a strained lat muscle that caused him to miss most of spring training.

The starting pitching has been the Pirates’ biggest weakness in the early going despite Jared Jones striking out 10 in 5.2 innings in his major-league debut. The rotation has a 5.47 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and a 1.58 strikeout/walk ratio.

The rotation’s struggle shouldn’t be a surprise, though. The Pirates never completely addressed the issue throughout the offseason, opting not to add an above-average starter.

Questionable starting pitching should keep everyone from making World Series plans just yet. Time will tell if it will keep the Pirates from contending.

However, leave that worry for another day. The Pirates are one of three major-league teams with perfect records along with the New York Yankees (5-0) and Detroit Tigers (4-0).

Who expected that?

Maybe it won’t last much longer, so fans should just enjoy the winning while they can and worry about tomorrow another day.

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