Jose Bautista - AP Photo/Kathy Willens
- Jose Bautista - Bautista is hitting .282/.360/.448, and has really excelled since being placed in the leadoff spot of the order. When batting first in 2007, Bautista has a line of .326/.408/.535. He attempted to shorten his swing this season in an effort to cut down on his high number of strikeouts. That effort has been successful, with his K% dropping from from 27.5% in 2006 to 16.9% this year. Early in the season, this new approach seemed to rob Bautista of some home run power, but that seems to be returning slowly. After hitting one home run in April and two in May, Bautista already has three in June. He also leads the Pirates with 21 doubles. Overall his defense has been solid, despite some inconsistencies in the past month or so.
- Tom Gorzelanny - Gorzelanny struggled in spring training, and many felt he should be returned to Triple-A to start the season. However, Jim Tracy kept him in Pittsburgh and that decision has paid tremendous dividends. Gorzelanny has gone 6-4 with a 3.04 ERA and a WHIP of 1.27. His ERA is currently seventh lowest in the National League, and his win total would be much higher if he could receive some additional run support. The Pirates have scored a total of two runs in Gorzelanny's four losses. Late in spring training, Gorzelanny assured the Pittsburgh media that everything would be different when the lights came on for the 2007 regular season. He has backed up his words with his performance this season.
- Ryan Doumit - It could be explained by a small sample size, but Doumit has been one of the Pirates' best hitters in 2007. He only has 128 at-bats due to beginning the season at Triple-A, but he has put up a line of .328/.377/.508 during that time. Despite the fact that his .885 OPS is higher than any Pirate not name Matt Capps, Doumit still has struggled to get on the field for one of the worst offenses in Major League Baseball. I don't know?
- Adam LaRoche - Many Pirate fans saw LaRoche as the Pirates' savior in 2007. His 32 home runs and .915 OPS would be a welcome addition to the Pirates' lineup. Well, it has not quite worked out that way. LaRoche is currently hitting .223/.314/.393. There are reasons for optimism, such as his 31 walks and timely hits (currently .306/.416/.435 with runners in scoring position). Also, LaRoche is known as a slow starter that heats up with the weather. In fact, his 2006 numbers through June 17 were not that far off from his current stats (.243/.330/.480). Nevertheless, his production has been well below expectations and has hurt the Pirates the first few months of the season.
- Zach Duke - Duke was strong in the second half of 2006, and it appeared that he was beyond his pre-2006 All Star break struggles. However, after starting the season well, Duke has been very hittable again in 2007. He is 3-6 with a 5.68 ERA and a WHIP of 1.65 thus far, and his opponent OPS is at a frightening .916. Opposing hitters have seemed very comfortable facing Duke, as his strikeout numbers have gone way down to 2.89 K/9 innings. It has been difficult to diagnose what is wrong with Duke, beyond his lack of overpowering stuff. It is possible that he is tipping his pitches. It is also possible that he has failed to make the necessary adjustments to get Major League hitters out. Whatever the cause, Duke, who as recently as last year was considered the Pirates ace of the future, is likely at a career crossroads.
- Freddy Sanchez - It is a general expectation that a batting champion's numbers will drop dramatically the following season. Regardless, the Pirates were hoping for more from Sanchez in 2007. His line is at .296/.333/.366, marking a drop off of over 150 OPS points from last season. Much of that is a result of his lack of extra-base hits, as last year's Major League doubles leader has only 12 to this point. Freddy has also hurt the team defensively, as his poor range at second base has allowed many extra runners onto the bases. Much of this can be attributed to missing virtually all of spring training and returning without an extended minor league rehab assignment. To be fair, Freddy's play has improved recently, both offensively (.884 OPS in June) and defensively. If Sanchez and LaRoche get hot in the second half of the season, and Nady and Bautista continue to have success, the Pirates could win quite a few games the rest of the way.
That's what we do on this site. We finish with a post with a little delusional optimism.
EDIT (3:45 PM): Here are some links if you are interested in what the individual expectations were before the season started: