Pittsburgh Pirates first half grades

The National League Central is the toughest division in baseball with the three top teams 13 games or more over .500 and the first place team, the Pittsburgh Pirates with the best record in baseball. Both the Pirates and the second place St. Louis Cardinals are playing over .600 baseball.

The best team in the majors during the first half of the season was the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pens won 50 games prior to July 1 for the first time in franchise history, which for them dates back to 1887.

First half of the season grades for Pittsburgh start with the offense. Pedro Alvarez was in the midst of one of his worst slumps during April and was actually being booed at PNC Park.

However, he has turned around his season with his best month of June in his career. He increased his home run total as the end of June to 20. He hit .319 for the month.

Starling Marte has had problems with consistency, but had a solid batting average at the end of June of .288 and 22 stolen bases.

Andrew McCutchen has not had the MVP type first half of the season fans have become accustomed to, but his strikeout ratio is down. If he finds his power, look out for him over the second half of the season.

The Pirates must improve in runs per game, as they are tenth in the NL in that figure at 3.95 per game and are just 11th in OPS at .699. Overall, even though the team as a whole has played terrific the offense has been mediocre.

Grade: C

The starting pitching for the Pirates has given up the second fewest runs a game in the NL at 3.40. The number in itself is impressive, but add to that the fact the pitching rotation has included 11 pitchers since opening day and the number looks fantastic.

A.J. Burnett has had a career first half, while Jeff Locke has had a breakout season, with his current ERA below 3.00. Gerrit Cole has shown he can control his fastball of 100 mph, while Francisco Liriano has proven he can return from a bad season.

The rotation is much deeper this season than in the past and even though it might be difficult to maintain their gaudy numbers, the rotation is much more talented this year.

Grade: A

The bullpen has been phenomenal as well. Jason Grilli has only blown a single save opportunity and Mark Melancon has become one of baseball’s best setup me.

The Pirates also have something very few teams have: a southpaw setup man who can reach 100 mph in Justin Wilson.

The Pirates relievers have the second best ERA in the NL. Even though the bullpen has been one of their brightest spots on the team, workload is beginning to be a real concern. Grilli has looked tired of late, while Melancon has said he needs one. The All Star break could be the best medicine for the entire bullpen.

Grade: A+

Defensively, Pittsburgh leads the major in defensive efficiency with .717; this is the rate in which a team turns a hit ball into an out. The outfield, especially leftfield and center field are very strong for Pittsburgh.

Russell Martin’s arm has made an impact for the team this season.

The infield for the Pirates lacks proven elite type players, but the way they have played as a unit cannot be questioned with their high defensive efficiency.

Grade: B+

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