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Ask BD: Is the Pirates' rotation strong enough?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks, all, for the questions, and keep them coming.

Trogluddite: Where will I be two years from now? -  P. Alvarez

In Tampa, preparing for the Yankees' upcoming season. - C. Wilmoth

Pittsburgh_Slim: Give us an honest prediction for Pirates this coming season. Wins – Losses. Playoffs? Wild Card? Big trade? Very blanket question but interested in what you think this early in the year.

See the end of my season preview.

IA Pirates Fan: Do you agree with me that they should just let Gregory Polanco play this season and not worry about a slow start?

Generally, yes, and I think that's what they'll do. It's possible that he'll have some problem that will be best addressed with a trip to the minors, or that he'll struggle so much that he's a huge drag on the team. But if he's merely not hitting as well as we'd like, then he should, and probably will, stay in the majors. It probably won't do the Pirates any good to jerk him around, and his plate discipline and baserunning give him a pretty high floor even if he struggles offensively.

More on Polanco in the next Ask BD post.

Bishop1973: Is a rotation consisting of a historically-inconsistent Francisco Liriano, an underachieving-to-date Gerrit Cole, a hanging-around-for-one-more-year A.J. Burnett, a seeming-flash-in-the-pan Vance Worley, and an oft-injured-and-oft-inconsistent Charlie Morton good enough to get the Pirates to the next level, meaning a division crown?

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. But I'll repeat that Vance Worley had a 2.85 ERA with the Pirates last year. They acquired him almost exactly a year ago for absolutely nothing. I encourage you to go back and read what I wrote at the time -- I didn't think his acquisition was any big deal, and neither did anybody else. Within the next week or two, there will be lots of pitchers who get designated for assignment, or who have opt-out dates and become free agents. Maybe the Pirates will acquire one of those guys, and if they do, none of us will look at his stats and think, "That guy could put up a 2.85 ERA this season."

Obviously, Worley is a special case. But the Pirates have gotten great results from so many pitchers who don't look very good on paper that I'm not going to worry about it, especially when the rotation is headed by two guys who do look good on paper in Liriano and Cole. Pirates pitchers' willingness to listen to coaching and ability to get ground balls probably matter just as much as their ages or basic statistics or whatever other obvious considerations we might wring our hands about. Until I see evidence that the DIPS-breaking stuff the Pirates have done in the last two years doesn't work anymore, or until Cole or Liriano gets hurt, I'm going to assume they'll be fine.

Ajl022: Now that Russell Martin is gone, which Pirate would you least want to fight?

Probably Burnett, just because he would be the least predictable. If Burnett were reincarnated, it would be as a feral dog, hunting rats and knocking over garbage cans.

Did everyone see Andrew McCutchen's recent Q+A for the Players Tribune, by the way? He was asked who would win if he and his teammates had a Royal Rumble, and he said he would, because he'd watch while everyone else fought. Which seemed like a perfectly Cutch-like answer.

SammyKhalifa: I know it's Spring Training, but does the Pirates' lack of offense concern you?

No. Like you said, it's only Spring Training.

CAGGS: Thoughts on Buster Olney’s prediction that the Bucs will win the World Series?

Like Olney said, predicting who will win a World Series is pretty much impossible. From my perspective, though, if you're going to do it, I would guess the Nationals, who stand out as baseball's most talented team and who have a pretty easy route to a playoff spot, given that the rest of their division is well below average. The NL Central is a much better division than the NL East, which will make it tougher on the Pirates, Cardinals and Cubs.

That said, the Pirates clearly have a shot, and I liked Olney's reasoning -- he praised their depth, suggested Polanco could elevate the Bucs' outfield to the best in baseball, and said Francisco Cervelli should be able to replicate some of what they lost when Russell Martin departed.