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On the Pirates' Pitching

I'm currently watching Paul Maholm's uninspiring performance and thinking about a couple of comments by Azibuck at Honest Wagner. In response to another reader's statement that pitching superstarts often don't start their careers that way, Azibuck writes:

...Gooden, Clemens, Saberhagen, Oswalt. Maddux was actually bad his first full year, and a star the next. Happens all the time.

OK, maybe not all the time, but it's not so rare that we shouldn't think it could happen.

Petitte, Zito, Hudson. I'm sure there's more.

Clearly, Azibuck's right, and we should be worried by the fact that none of our young starters is currently playing like a star. They aren't pitching like a group of youngsters who are all going to turn into stars. In fact, the Bucs will be lucky to get three decent starters out of the four young guys they currently have in their rotation. It wouldn't be shocking at all if they only got two.

For a team that's staked so much on young pitching, that's an enormous problem. It's especially a problem because nearly all their eggs are in these four baskets. There's virtually no starting pitching depth left in the minors. There's only a bunch former top prospects (Sean Burnett, Bryan Bullington and John VanBenschoten) trying to pick up the pieces of their injury-ravaged careers, the recently-drafted Brad Lincoln, and a bunch of lottery picks (Todd Redmond, Eric Ridener, Mike Felix, Brandon Holden and so on) who are nowhere near the majors.

In other words, unless the Pirates' group of young starters turns out much better than it currently looks like it's going to be, the Bucs are in even worse trouble than they appear to be now. They'll have to depend on even more veterans along the lines of B.P. Chacon and Victor Santos, or they'll have to hope that the pitching prospects in Class A or lower come on much stronger and faster than expected. The futures of Ian Snell, Zach Duke, Tom Gorzelanny and Maholm will probably correlate directly with whether the Pirates will be watchable in the coming years.