Maholm was the recipient of some good luck in 2008, creating unrealistic expectations. That made his 2009 performance look much worse than it actually was. He doesn’t strike out many hitters, but he doe not hand out many free passes and he has boasted a top ten ground ball rate in each of the past five seasons. Maholm seems to be overlooked at times, but he is the Pirates’ best pitcher by a fairly wide margin. He will quietly lead the staff again in 2010.
This is simply a gut prediction. I have seen nothing from Hart that suggests he will succeed as a starting pitcher, but I just have a feeling that he will surprise us this season. Hart will be Joe Kerrigan’s success story of 2010, as he finally figures out how to throw strikes with consistency.
Plenty of fans and members of the media have questioned the Pirates’ plan to give Clement a chance to start at first base. Thus far in spring training, he has played a capable first base, and both CHONE and ZiPS project him to have one of the better bats on the team. He will be one of the few power threats in the lineups until Pedro Alvarez arrives.
Ohlendorf’s peripheral numbers did not match his ERA in 2009, not even during his strong performance after making a midseason mechanical tweak. His velocity and strikeout numbers improved with his new over-the-head delivery, but his ground ball rate also dropped dramatically. That led to an increase in home runs allowed. Ohlendorf will be the team’s biggest disappointment in 2010, as expectations are too high after what he did last season.
I wasn’t sure where to put Jones on this list, because expectations vary significantly depending on who you’re talking to. Some expect him to continue what he did last year, while others are prepared for him to fall apart completely. I put him in the Disappointments section, because he will not come close to matching his 2009 season. But he will still be a productive hitter with power, something the Pirates will desperately need.
McCutchen has looked fantastic every time I have seen him in spring training. That, combined with Hart’s struggles, has fans clamoring to name him the fifth starter. But McCutchen will struggle to succeed over the course of a full season. His mediocre strikeout rates and high fly ball tendencies do not bode well, particularly for a right-hander pitching at PNC Park. Unless Hart shows zero improvement over the next couple weeks, I would prefer to keep McCutchen at Triple-A.