Charlie of Bucs Dugout kindly agreed to answer some questions about the Pirates ahead of the Mets' visit to Pittsburgh, and I answered some questions for them about the Mets, which I'll link to here as soon as they're available.
Andrew McCutchen is having a great year, which comes as no surprise, but is anyone else in the lineup playing far better or worse than expected?
Most of the surprises are on the pitching side. Pedro Alvarez was a lot worse than expected, and is currently on the DL with an injured quad muscle. He just aggravated the injury, and he's typically a slow starter, so the chances of the Pirates getting anything at all out of him this year appear remote, unfortunately. The catching tandem of Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder has been better than expected, probably because both were getting a lot of rest. They're both on the DL now, however, along with Class AAA catcher Jason Jaramillo, so the Pirates' current catching tandem is a pair of minor-league nobodies in Dusty Brown and Wyatt Toregas.What are some things we might not know about the Pirates' starting pitchers for the series: Charlie Morton, James McDonald, Kevin Correia, and Paul Maholm?
Since May 15, those four have had 17 starts, and have allowed more than three runs in only two of them. The entire rotation is on an incredible hot streak. The Mets have seen all four already, but for anyone who missed them, watch out for Morton, in particular - the Pirates' coaches completely remade his delivery in the offseason, and now nobody can hit the ball in the air against him. He allowed three runs, one earned, and 11 hits in six innings against the Mets a couple weeks ago. That that outing qualified as one of his most frustrating of the year really says a lot. I also would be inclined to trust McDonald's recent performances, which have been excellent, rather than the poor ones he had at the beginning of the season, when he was recovering from a side injury he had in Spring Training.
Correia and Maholm are garden-variety innings-eater types - or maybe a bit better than that - who have had a fair amount of luck this year keeping their ERAs low.
Do you see the Pirates keeping up their current level of play? Do you think they'll be active on the trade market before the deadline?
They're 30-30 right now and they're right in line with their Pythagorean record, but some of their pitchers, such as Correia and Maholm, are overachieving. They definitely appear to be a better team than in years past, but I think the pitching will take a step backward. Also, if injuries keep forcing them to give playing time to guys like Brandon Wood and Dusty Brown, that will probably catch up to them.
They could be active at the trading deadline, but I doubt they will be as enthusiastic as they typically are. Their farm system currently has plenty of depth, so there's less incentive for them to add the kind of C+ prospects they've mostly gotten when they've traded their veterans. There is still the possibility they trade someone like Maholm or Joel Hanrahan, though, which will make it hard for them to maintain their current pace.
But just to make things more confusing, I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of some kind of creative trade to improve the big-league club, like they made with Snyder last year. They probably won't sell the farm to do that, though, since the front office has repeatedly said that a .500 season is not, in itself, a priority.
In short, I really don't know what they're going to do, but I wouldn't expect a bunch of crazy activity either way.
Even though the Pirates have already won more than half as many games as they won in 2010, attendance at PNC Park is still very low. What will it take for fans to head out to the ballpark?
Better weather would help. Spring weather in Pittsburgh usually is atrocious for baseball, and this year has been no exception. That said, the Pirates will never lead the league in attendance. Upcoming home weekend series against the Red Sox, Cubs and Cardinals should help, however.