Accounting for the way the two teams have played so far, PECOTA now projects the Pirates will win 70 games and finish well ahead of the Astros, who are now 7-12. PECOTA originally projected the Pirates would finish last.
All that might sound obvious to some of you, but I try not to take these things for granted. The way the season has gone so far has made me believe a lot more in several players (Zach Duke, Andy LaRoche, Nyjer Morgan, Adam LaRoche), though, and there have also been big, and apparently legitimate, improvements in the quality of both the pitching and the defense. Although those improvements aren't totally sustainable, it seems that when this team wins, they're usually winning on merit and not winning just because the other team lost, if that makes any sense. The Pirates have played an awful lot of games in the past decade in which both teams played badly and the Pirates won because they were less bad. That has rarely been the case this season.
I'll go ahead and agree with PECOTA about the Bucs winning 70 games, because Ryan Doumit will miss a couple months and because the Pirates are likely to take a step backward after their annual batch of midseason trades. But I'm more excited to watch this team than any edition of the Pirates in recent memory. The midseason doldrums, which some years come as early as April 10 or so, haven't set in for me yet at all.