This is the time of year when I cast aside my 11 months and three weeks of pessimism and start thinking the Pirates might be good. I'm not saying playoff good, but third-place good.
I'm happy that Doumit appears to be getting the bulk of time at catcher. That should improve the offense. LaRoche should be better than last year, Sanchez's shoulder is worrisome, no doubt about it, and Jack Wilson and Jose Bautista should be roughly the same as last season.
Nady/Pearce should post similar numbers to the 2007 collection of RFs, but Bay should improve and a full year of McLouth should make CF a strength -- at least offensively.
With the exception of 2B, I see upgrade or stagnation at every other position. Hopefully, that translates into more runs. The bench isn't great, I admit.
On the pitching side, Snell and Gorzelanny are good -- if healthy. Maholm was actually pretty good last season until September and Duke looks better with the Tracy/Colborn regime gone. I don't expect 2005, but maybe Duke can post an ERA of 4.40,. which I'll take from a fourth or fifth starter. I have no hope for Matt Morris.
That's not a horrible rotation, but it has to stay healthy because there's not much depth. I'm hoping Huntington can add someone who's fallen out of favor, such as Matt Belisle, in the coming days.
The bullpen looks OK, too. Capps, Marte and Grabow are solid, and the collection of spare parts seems to have more upside than last year's group.
I think the range of victories falls between 65 and 85, so there's a chance we could get a winning season. Of course, there's a better chance we remain mired with 90+ losses.