MLB Picks: "Small Ball" Will Enable Pirates To Eclipse 86.5 Win Mark

Joe Catalano

Saturday, March 26, 2016 8:31 PM GMT

We take a look at the Bucs win total projection and the MLB odds are even money at 86.5 wins. This appears like a reachable goal. Let's check it out and see.

McCutch In the Clutch”
The Pittsburgh Pirates bring the fans the same thing every season as they battle it out with the St. Louis Cardinals for the National League Central Division Title. While the Cards always edge Pitt out, I'm expecting the Pirates to turn the tables in 2016. 

Although I'm not looking for life to pass by like a speeding bullet, I'm very curious to see if Andrew McCuttchen makes the hall of fame and on what ballot.

In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated players in baseball. He's a small man in stature- but a 5-tool player as he can hit 20 plus homers, 100 RBI's, hit for average,swipe some bags, and play a nasty centerfield. Okay, McCutchen is a 6-tool player.He's not going to hit 40 home runs, but this is a player that will reach base 40% of the time as opposing pitchers fear the sight of McCutchen.

Last season was a mere average season at 23 HR, 96 RBI, .292 BA, and a .401 OBP%. Andrew doesn't come anywhere near 200 hits because he's walked so often and we have to remember all of the runs that he saves defensively. Look for a monster season in 2016 out of the 5-10, 200 pound (slight exaggeration), Andrew McCutchen.

 

In Desperate Need Of Production From Marte
Now that Pedro Alvarez is gone, the Pirates will need to either play small ball or improve with power numbers.

Last season, Starling Marte had a breakout season with 19 HR, 81 BRI, .287 BA and 30 SB. This player provides great support for McCutchen. Look for more of the same from Marte in 2016. I expect his power numbers to increase slightly and for the Bucs to take the route of small ball. Just like McCutchen, he's the other straw that stirs the Pirates drink.

2016 will be kind to Marte as he has gained a vast amount of experience against NL pitchers.

While Pittsburgh desperately needs a bounce back season from Josh Harrison, they have Francisco Cervelli to pick up the slack. Cervelli is a very underrated player with fire in his belly as he proved with the New York Yankees. I feel that he'll be aggressive when facing National League pitching.

Last season, Cervelli had 7 HR, 43 RBI, a 295 BA, and a .370 OBP%. Pittsburgh will gladly take that from Cervelli in 2016 if “small ball” is their approach. They appear to have no other choice, but I've seen teams such as the Yankees win this way in the past. Pittsburgh will also be looking for Cervelli to catch near 500 at-bats behind the plate. That is asking a lot.

 

Above Average Pitching For the NL Central Title
Good Pitching wins games and there's simply no dropoff when looking at the Pirates pitching staff.

Francisco Liriano (12-7, 3.38 ERA, 205 strikeouts) has always been the ace. He's super-reliable and will drop down to the #2 starter. The only knock on Liriano is that he'll have a really bad inning early in a game at times.

 

Ace In the Hole
Gerrit Cole had a monster season in 2015, coming up one game short of 20 wins. Cole also had less than 10 losses, 202 strikeouts, and a 2.60 ERA to support his cause. If he has a season even close to this, Pittsburgh will leave St. Louis in the rear-view window. Expect Cole to pitch lights out again this season as he's just begun to make his mark as a superstar in the MLB.

 

Outlook
The only knock on the Pirates is the lack of power, but they make up for it everywhere else. Take the Over 86.5 with a ton of confidence at even MLB odds. I would place a large bet on this with my MLB picks despite their Spring Training woes.

MLB Pick: Pittsburgh Pirates Over 86.5 Wins (EV) at Bovada