A quick look at Major League Baseball’s standings one week into the season shows some familiar names atop their divisions. In the American League, the Boston Red Sox have the best record at 8-1, followed by the Houston Astros at 8-2. In the National League, the New York Mets have the best record at 6-1 with a game being played Sunday night against the Washington Nationals. Trailing the Mets are the Arizona Diamondbacks at 7-2. But there’s a team tied with Arizona, which is the surprise team in MLB thus far. That’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. And so far they have emerged as the biggest surprise in baseball.
2018 Pittsburgh Pirates: Biggest Surprise in Baseball
After finishing fourth in the NL Central last year with a 75-87 record, the Bucs have jumped out to a 7-2 start, following a 5-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Jameson Taillon was masterful, allowing only one hit in going the distance. Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson homered to lead the way on offense.
Fastest start since 2003
It’s the fastest start for the Bucs since 2003 when they opened with a 6-3 record. That was pretty much the high water mark for the Pirates that year, though, as they finished fourth in the NL Central with a 75-87 record. Back then, the Pirates were in the midst of going 20 years without a winning record. They would go 11 more years before finally breaking that streak in 2014.
The start this year is certainly an improvement over last year when the Bucs opened up at 3-6, including losing a three-game series to the Reds, and ended April with a 12-14 record.
The fastest start for the Pirates ever came in 1962 when they opened the season by reeling off 10 straight wins. That team finished with a 93-68 record, but that was eight games behind San Francisco Giants, who finished first.
Schedule gets tougher
After taking three straight from the Detroit Tigers, splitting two games with the Minnesota Twins and winning three of four against the Reds, the schedule gets tougher for the Bucs as they travel to Chicago for a three-game series with the Cubs, starting Monday. For the rest of the month, they play on the road against the Miami Marlins and the Philadelphia Phillies and host the Colorado Rockies and Tigers. They finish up April with a three-game series at home against the Cardinals.
By then, it should be evident whether the hot start actually means something, or whether it’s just flash in the pan.
The main reason for the Pirates success so far has been a sizzling offense, with eight players batting over 300. Rookie third-baseman Colin Moran leads the way with a 345 batting average. Polanco, enjoying a resurgence after being injured for most of last year, leads the Major Leagues with 13 runs batted in.
Overall, the Pirates team batting average of .278 is second in the National League. They’re also second in runs scored with 53. It’s a vast improvement over last year with the Pirates were thirteenth with a 244 batting average. They were also thirteenth in runs scored with 668.
The offense, thus far, has been able to overcome some shoddy pitching, especially by the bullpen. The Pirates team earned run average is 4.62, which is the eleventh highest in the NL. Of the team’s 13 pitchers, eight have ERAs over 4.50. Those numbers have to come down significantly if the Bucs hope to continue their winning ways.
Embed from Getty Images