-P- WHYGAVS says this is an unusually fundamentally sound Pirates team, and I agree. Since the first few games, there have been few of the typical same-old-Pirates mistakes, and the Bucs have been very strong defensively. They aren't TOOTBLANing very much. When the Pirates play a stretch of games this year when they do make a lot of fundamental mistakes, it will be easy to gripe, and I probably will. But if we're going to do that, we ought to also praise them when they're playing the game the right way, and right now, they pretty clearly are.
Starling Marte and Russell Martin have been big parts of that, as expected. I talked before the season about how the Pirates' season could depend heavily on Marte. So far it has, and for the better. As I noted on Twitter last night, Marte currently leads the Pirates in WAR, with 1.2, far ahead of A.J. Burnett (0.7), Neil Walker (0.5 -- UZR really likes Walker's defense so far) and Martin (0.5). Andrew McCutchen (0.4) hasn't hit like himself so far this year. I have little doubt that he will eventually, but I still think there's something like a 40 percent chance that Marte will lead the Pirates in WAR this season. His defense is that good.
Before the season, I suggested Marte might have a year something like Josh Reddick's 2012, where he comes out with 5 WAR thanks to solid hitting (although with more batting average and less power) and excellent corner-outfield defense. I'm pretty happy with that suggestion so far. There's still plenty of time for pitchers to adjust to Marte, but I think the defense will turn out to be very real.
Anyway, I just went a pretty different direction with Pat's point, but I agree with his post overall. He notes that guys like Marte and Travis Snider have very high BABIPs and the best arms in the bullpen have put in a ton of work so far, so there are some things about the Pirates' start that aren't really sustainable. (Then again, McCutchen hasn't done a whole lot yet, and this team isn't going to have Jonathan Sanchez in the rotation the whole year.) But overall, the team is on more solid ground than usual, and a lot of that has been due to players who are relatively new to the team -- Marte, Martin, Snider, Wandy Rodriguez. I'm not sure this is a winning team, but this doesn't feel like a same-old-Pirates team to me at all.
-P- Speaking of which, Ken Rosenthal quotes a GM saying that this is the best Pirates team in the past 20 years.
-P- Pirates Prospects has a podcast now, which is cool.