June 21, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Rod Barajas (26) is greeted at home by third baseman Pedro Alvarez (24) after Barajas hit a two run homerun against the Minnesota Twins during the sixth inning of an interleague game at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 9-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
#Pirates run differentials so far this year: March/April (-8), May (-21), June (+19).
That's right. The Pirates escaped May with a pretty good record, but now they're actually playing pretty well. Some of that is a tough schedule at the beginning of the season, and a weak one now -- the Pirates deserve some credit for taking advantage of opportunities against the Royals and Twins, but they're still the Royals and Twins. Along the same lines, though, the Bucs get a ton of matchups against the Cubs and Astros down the stretch.
The Pirates' strong June has been fueled by ... wait for it ... their offense, which has hit .262/.321/.447 this month, with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Casey McGehee, Garrett Jones and (in limited opportunities) Josh Harrison all hitting out of their shoes. The pitching, obviously, has been worse than before.
One doesn't want to go too crazy over small sizes, good or bad, and my opinion is still that the Pirates aren't as good as their current record, and that, in the long run, they're going to get lapped by the Cardinals, who I think are a legitimately very good team, and probably also the Reds. If the Bucs continue playing this way for a couple more weeks, though, they'll have to think hard about being buyers at the trade deadline.
If they are, the good thing about their situation, strange as it might sound, and that they've been so bad in certain areas that, as FanGraphs recently pointed out, it shouldn't be that hard to upgrade without giving up a whole lot. Their starting rotation right now is basically three guys (plus whatever they can get out of Jeff Karstens); even though they have some reasonable options in Class AAA, a veteran starter could really help. They would need to steel themselves against regression from their bullpen, but moving Brad Lincoln back there could really help, and getting bullpen help at the deadline is never that hard unless you're looking for a "closer," which the Pirates wouldn't be. And despite the recent outburst, their offense is still among the worst in baseball. Depending on how Clint Barmes plays in the near future, probably the surest possible path to improvement is to get a corner outfielder and start reducing Jose Tabata's and Alex Presley's playing time.