2024 Pittsburgh Pirates O/U

2024 Pittsburgh Pirates O/U: How Pirates Hit the Over

The Pittsburgh Pirates, one of the founding National League (NL) franchises, seek to reverse their fortunes and strike gold in 2024 with a developing roster flush with young talent and stabilizing veterans. While it might be a stretch for them to vault from fourth place to first in the NL Central, the club has a fighting chance to surpass the 75 regular season wins prediction set by oddsmakers. 

2024 Pittsburgh Pirates O/U: How the Pirates Hit the Over

Pirates’ History

Over the years, the Pirates have featured some of the most notable players in Major League Baseball’s (MLB) illustrious history. Hall-of-Famers Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, and Willie Stargell led them to championships in 1909, 1971, and 1979 respectively. Since their 1979 championship, Pittsburgh has found limited success despite employing superstars like young Barry Bonds and most recently Andrew McCutchen.

The organization has not won a division title since joining its current division in 1994 and has the longest League Championship Series drought in MLB. The Pirates have only had a single extended stretch of contention this century, last making the playoffs from 2013-2015, but not advancing further than the divisional round, resulting in few games of consequence at beautiful PNC Ballpark.

The team hopes for a breakthrough in 2024, which ushers in year five of general manager Ben Cherington and field manager Derek Shelton’s organizational rebuild. This year’s roster has a mix of young and old players. While guys like McCutchen and veteran pitchers Marco Gonzales, Aroldis Chapman, and Martin Peréz play a valuable role in stabilizing the roster and helping the youngsters understand what it takes to win at this level, the team’s contention hopes rest on its copious amount of promising young talent, some of whom have already proven themselves at the MLB level. 

Reasons For Optimism

As a small-market team, the Pirates often stay out of the upper-tier free-agent and trade markets as they have to invest their resources shrewdly. Often, the first step to building a good team is retaining the top young players, and the Pirates have done that.

First, in April 2022, the club extended starting third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, a gifted defender whose hitting has improved each season. A year later, the team negotiated a slightly larger new contract with center-fielder Bryan Reynolds, giving the talented all-around player the massive extension he needed to keep him on the team. Then, last month, Pittsburgh rewarded their opening-day starting pitcher Mitch Keller with a five-year extension. Keller finally figured things out this past season, finishing with a record 210 strikeouts, earning a first-time All-Star spot, and cementing his status atop the Pirates rotation.

The team can count on Keller to start games and then closer David Bednar, a Pittsburgh native, to save them. In addition, the much-hyped pitching prospect, Paul Skenes, the first overall pick in 2023’s draft, will hit the ground running and transform this team overnight when he inevitably gets promoted a month or two into the season. Finally,  Pittsburgh strengthened their options at first base and outfield by signing free agents Rowdy Tellez and Michael A. Taylor. The franchise also brought back the aging McCutchen, who is now mainly a designated hitter.

Cause For Concern

The Pirates’ projected starting catcher is Henry Davis, the club’s selection with the first overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. However, Davis mainly played right field in his first 60 MLB games because his offense was ahead of his defense. This offseason, the team signed veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal as an insurance policy in case Davis is not ready to fully play the uber-important defensive position. 

Another area of concern is the middle infield spots as projected second baseman Jared Triolo is another young, unproven player, and shortstop Oneil Cruz has superstar potential but is coming off a major season-ending injury. Additionally, the 2024 pitching staff may not have enough quality to return this team to postseason contention for the first time in many years. Veteran hard-throwing reliever Chapman is nowhere near as effective as he used to be, and the two left-handed starters Gonzales and Peréz are just average pitchers. 

The Pirates’ manager has never overseen a winning team. The Texas Rangers’ 2023 success illustrates the difference a proven manager can make in an organization, suggesting that Shelton’s job could be on the line ahead of this campaign. Nevertheless, it seems attainable for the club to win at least 80 games this year, provided they don’t fall apart like last year. Can the Pirates find booty and seize the treasure of the wide-open NL Central this year or will they remain stuck on the banks of the Allegheny River? 

Main Image: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

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