If the 2019 Pirates are going to surpass the .500ish projections that are the source of both scorn and motivation for the team, they're going to need their starting rotation to be elite. Not just decent, like in 2018 when Pittsburgh's starters placed 15th in the majors with 10.8 Wins Above Replacement (WAR, a measure of player value compared to that of the kind of player who ends up becoming waiver bait). Great. Short of Josh Bell re-discovering his power stroke, Gregory Polanco returning early from shoulder surgery and channeling Dave Parker, and Jung Ho Kang slugging like it's 2016, the Pirates' offense doesn't figure to improve much over the 2018 unit that tied for 18th in the big leagues with 4.3 runs scored per game.
The Pirates need a full season of Chris Archer performing like he did last September. Another All-Star-worthy campaign out of Jameson Taillon. Another improbable, impressive year from Trevor Williams. A full, healthy batch of starts from Joe Musgrove. And at least adequacy out of the-- journeyman starter? Opener? Top prospect?--who ends up taking the ball every fifth fifth day.
So, is the starting rotation up for the job?
Are they good enough to overcome the club's lack of offensive punch, and leapfrog their NL Central rivals?
To explore the issue, and at the risk of drawing ire on Federal Street, let's turn to those projection systems.