Since August 1, the Pirates are 17 games below .500. If the season had started on that date, they would be 1/2 game in front of the Astros, and tied with the Cubs. Those two teams chose to blow up their rosters prior to the trade deadline and have been fielding AAA teams for the most part since then. Neither of those teams expects to be competitive next year. Is it possible that the current talent level is such that the Bucs should have the same expectations?
Of course, the whole season counts, and 77-78 wins represents progress of a sort. (Hell, I still have hope that the losing streak can be broken.) But, I am having a harder time seeing better times ahead. Most of the blame for the current woes can be attributed to the implosion of the pitching staff. Looking to next year, other than Burnett and Rodriguez, who else can we count on to pitch 180 innings next year with a league average ERA or better? Who in the bullpen will be better than they were this year. On the hitting side, who can we expect to be better next year? I am looking for some reason to be positive about next year, and right now it is hard to see.