In 2014, the Pirates rode their most potent offense since the days of Bonds, Bonilla and Van Slyke to a second consecutive playoff berth. The quest for a third straight Buctober — and first division title since 1992 — figured to follow a similar blueprint. Catcher Russell Martin took his on-base chops to Toronto, but the Pirates’ lineup is otherwise unchanged. Yet last year’s Lumber Company-worthy squad is struggling to scrape together any runs.
With face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen battling injury, 2014 breakout star Josh Harrison hacking his way into oblivion, and Jordy Mercer making fans long for South Korean star Jung Ho Kang, the Pirates have gone from leading the NL in OPS+ (107) last year to besting only the hapless Phillies and Brewers (75 OPS+ in 2015). Plate discipline was a hallmark of the 2014 Pirates, but they’re swinging recklessly in 2015. Considering that the Cardinals are ripping off wins like the ’27 Yankees and the Cubs’ stable of young talent is already gunning for gold, the Bucs better start barreling pitches immediately.