The Buccos emerged as a force in 2013, not altogether unlike the Nationals' rise the year before. Both teams met their fate at the hands of the Cardinals in NLDS Game 5 showdowns. Will Pittsburgh be able to avoid the Nats' failure to repeat a post-season berth in 2014? The coming off-season will no doubt go a long way to deciding that question. Here are a few notes on the club's path forward ...
- An early statistical look at the club reveals that the offensive projects to be similarly valuable next year while the run prevention (pitching and defense) might need some help to repeat, explains Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. In particular, Cameron notes that the club's pen should not be counted on to shut down the opposition at quite so impressive a rate, and that the effectiveness of the rotation will depend on several variables. Chief among them: whether or not A.J. Burnett returns (and, if so, how he ages); whether Francisco Liriano can finally become a consistent presence; and whether Gerrit Cole can build upon his early success.
- Cole has answered every question thus far and should come back strong in 2013, writes Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Though he jumped about fifty innings between 2012-13, manager Clint Hurdle says that Cole has "gotten stronger, it seems to us, from the visual aspect as the season went on." The big righty increased his average fastball velocity over the course of the year, and the club is apparently not concerned with the wear on his 23-year-old arm.
- The immediate talk has unsurprisingly turned to the team's current players who are not under contract for 2013, including Burnett, displaced starting shortstop Clint Barmes, and trade acquisitions Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. MLB.com's Thomas Harding rounds up the early reactions of some of these players to the possibility of returning to Pittsburgh from the free agent market.