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Ask BD: Is the Pirates' rotation good enough?

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Hey all, thank you for your questions, and feel free to keep them coming.

KingJeremy666: Are the Pirates and most people here on BD putting too much faith in Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon and possibly Nick Kingham being saviors of the team's mediocre rotation? As it stands today, the Bucs have two great proven starters, a No. 4 or at best average No. 3, and two lousy No. 5 pitchers.

I assume your name is a Pearl Jam reference. Let's just say no wicked king could harbor serious dreams of ruling the world after he's penciled Ryan Vogelsong into his rotation. Does the Pirates' rotation look mediocre? Yes. Does putting Vogelsong and Jeff Locke in the rotation, or depending on a recovering Taillon to rescue them, seem smart? No.

That's where we are, right? It all seems obvious. But I'm pretty widely considered to be more charitable to the Pirates than most commentators, and even I have consistently underestimated most of the major moves they've made in the past three-plus years. Maybe we're all doing that again. Or maybe, as I've seen suggested elsewhere, the Pirates have become "arrogant" about their ability to turn seemingly random pitchers into shutdown arms, and this will be the year hubris catches up to them. I wouldn't bet on it. But I don't know.

So this offseason has frustrated me as a commentator, because, in my more self-centered moments, it almost feels like the Pirates are baiting me with some of these moves. "Admit you don't know what you're talking about," they say. And I don't! That's particularly true with pitchers. I can tell you what kind of pitcher Juan Nicasio or Neftali Feliz was last year. I can put those acquisitions in context. But I can't tell you whether Feliz is the next Jason Grilli, or the next Ernesto Frieri. I just don't know. This has no doubt been a strange offseason, and if pitchers like Vogelsong and Nicasio and Feliz and Jon Niese aren't significantly better than it looks like they're going to be, criticism of the team will probably be intense, and it will probably be justified. But it's also possible to imagine those additions working out fine, just because most of the Pirates' pitching additions have, even the ones that didn't look so hot at the time.

Rockyburgher: Do you think Nicasio or Feliz might get stretched out in the spring to compete for the last rotation slots?

Since you asked this, it's been reported that Nicasio will, in fact, be stretched out. That makes sense, I think -- Nicasio could provide the Pirates with an early-season rotation option if he looks better than anticipated or if someone gets hurt. If not, he'll likely be in sort of a higher-upside Jeanmar Gomez type of role, with Nicasio working multiple innings on occasion but potentially also slotting into higher-leverage situations as well.

Sina22: Do you believe it will be a failure of this management If it fails to hang even a division banner before Andrew McCutchen leaves in three years? I find it odd that Pirate fans seem so content with early playoff exits and no hardware, yet we’ve had a coach and GM get lambasted and fired for that in another local sport (Ray Shero, Dan Bylsma), we’ve seen NFL coaches forced to "retire" due to poor results, and we’ve roundly criticized star players for poor performances in those early exits/the playoffs (Ben Roethlisberger, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury, the entire Steelers defense).

Not necessarily. That seems like an arbitrary standard, because the Pirates' management can't control how the Bucs' divisional opponents do, and they really don't have much control over how the Bucs do in the playoffs. Much as we hate that those things are true, they're true. Pirates fans might indeed be more content with early playoff exits than other fan bases, but it seems like there have been a ton of complaints about that, even though just making the MLB playoffs can be very difficult relative to, say, those of the NHL. The Pirates played in a historically great division last year and won 98 games anyway. It wasn't satisfying to see the Pirates lose in the Wild Card round, but based on what Pirates management could control, 2015 was a massively successful season.

I do think it might end up being fair to criticize the Pirates' management and/or ownership if their effort to win turns out to have been insufficient, but I don't think that can necessarily be measured in terms of division wins, or even playoff series wins. Winning a World Series is the goal, but generally, all the Pirates' management can do is put together really good teams and hope for the best. Of course, it remains to be seen if they'll do that, and as I mentioned above, this offseason isn't helping me figure it out.