Are the Pittsburgh Pirates a viable contender?

Absolutely no one would have envisioned the Pittsburgh Pirates as contenders heading into the 2023 season.

The Pirates did make several interesting moves. Rich Hill, Carlos Santana, Ji-Man Choi, Vince Velasquez, and Andrew McCutchen were all brought in to bolster the roster. Every free agent was brought in on a one year deal, making those players potential trade chips at the trade deadline.

Pittsburgh Pirates greatly exceeding expectations thus far

Someone forgot to tell the Pirates that was the plan. They enter Monday with a 16-7 record, the best in the NL and trailing only the Rays in all of Major League Baseball. Their +25 run differential ranks sixth overall as they are tied for the eighth fewest runs allowed (86) while having scored the eighth most runs (111). Their seven game winning streak is the longest active one in the game currently. The Pirates have been one of the biggest surprises in the game.

The question now is whether or not this can continue. Any team can have a hot month or two, and the Pirates have not faced a difficult schedule. Only two of their seven series this season have come against a team with a winning record. Their seven game winning streak involved facing the Rockies and Reds. Neither of those teams are projected to be a powerhouse this season.

But a team can only play the schedule they are handed. In this case, the schedule involves playing several teams that are amongst the worst in the game. The Pirates are doing what good teams should do in beating those bottom dwellers, but it remains to be seen if they can hang around all year. Their upcoming stretch, where they face the Dodgers, Rays, and Blue Jays in three of their next four series, will help determine how good the Pirates actually are. Maybe, just maybe, the Pirates can be this year’s version of the 2022 Orioles.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a surprisingly hot start. The next two weeks will help determine whether or not that start is a mirage.

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