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Series Preview #52: Talking Pirates With Bucs Dugout One Last Time



94-65 (1st place, NL Central)
71-88 (4th place, NL Central)

GAME 1: September 26, 2011 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

: September 27, 2011 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

GAME 3: September 28, 2011 @ 7:10 p.m. CDT
(TV: FS-Wisconsin; Radio: 620 WTMJ)

Miller Park Milwaukee, Wisconsin

SBN Coverage: Pirates vs Brewers coverage

A View from the Other Dugout: Bucs Dugout

Game 1 Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.31) vs. Charlie Morton (10-10, 3.67)
vs. Pirates (1-1, 1.31) vs. Brewers (0-0, 1.23)
Game 2 Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.61) vs. Ross Ohlendorf (1-3, 8.29)
vs. Pirates (1-0, 0.00) vs. Brewers (0-1, 7.20)
Game 3 Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52) vs. Jeff Locke (0-2, 4.97)
vs. Pirates (1-0, 3.00) vs. Brewers (0-0, ---)

Thanks to Charlie Wilmoth from Bucs Dugout for answering these questions despite the fact that I forgot to send them until this morning:

KL: For four months this team really looked like an NL Central contender. Did their hot start change expectations for this team in 2012?

CW: Maybe for some people, but I think the discourse surrounding the team this offseason is going to be pretty similar to the recent past. The hot start did help the Pirates raise ticket prices, which they badly needed to do.

Follow the jump for the rest.

KL: Looking back on this season, do you feel like the second half struggles of this team are something we should have seen coming?

CW: They were terrifyingly bad in the second half. I'm not sure the magnitude of the collapse was foreseeable, but I think the 71-74 wins they're going to wind up with (ah, it's the Brewers, who am I kidding? 71 wins) do represent this team's true talent level.

KL: The organization likely isn't in a position to make a big splash on the free agent market this winter, but are there moves they could make to put the team in a better position going forward?

CW: Trading closer Joel Hanrahan for, say, a young infielder would help. Beyond that, it's tough. There are obvious holes (catcher, first base and, depending on how one views the Pedro Alvarez situation, third base), but few good free-agent options to fill them. On top of that, free agents don't usually want to play for the Pirates anyway. We might actually see the Bucs make trades to take on salary - their payroll is already very low and they also could have a bunch of money coming off the books.

KL: The Pirates got career years in 2011 from three starting pitchers: Charlie Morton, Paul Maholm and Jeff Karstens. Are these guys' improvements sustainable?

CW: In Karstens' case, probably not. For Morton and Maholm, maybe. This wasn't a particularly great Pirates defense, but it was better than it had been in the past, which helps balls-in-play guys like Morton and Maholm a great deal. Also, Morton's transformation was fueled by major mechanical changes that should continue to help him.

KL: How would you evaluate Clint Hurdle's first season as manager? Is he someone you're hoping will be around for the long haul?

CW: At the midpoint of the season, it looked like the Pirates were playing much more alertly than they had in the past, and I was giving Hurdle some credit for that. He apparently still has the players' attention, but the last couple months have been the same old Pirates in terms of the quality of play. I'm not talking about winning and losing, necessarily, but things like not making silly fielding mistakes, or needlessly running into outs - things that seem like mental lapses. Also, fans of every team take issue with their manager's tactical choices, but I've been amazed at how poor some of Hurdle's bunting decisions have been. All in all, he seems like a very standard, average manager, which is to say he hasn't done anything incredibly destructive or harmful, but his decisions have been annoying to watch on a day-to-day basis.

Thanks again to Charlie for taking the time!