1)PITCHING-Yes, pitching is the obvious need. It seems to be obvious to the fans and the media. But is it obvious to GM Neal Huntington? That, I'm not so sure. The rotation is definitely going to get an overhaul going into the 1st series against the Washington Nationals. If RH Gerrit Cole returns for that series, it could be the shot in the arm the staff needs. But where do the Bucs go from there? The starting pitching has got to get better and stronger and go longer. If they don't, the bullpen arms will wear down again. NH needs to start looking under a rock for every available arm (although, it may be that kind of thinking that got us in this mess in the first place). If we never see LH Jon Niese again the the Black-N-Gold, that will be alright by me. LH Francisco Liriano needs to get back on track or see what he can bring in a trade. Bring up the youngsters. If there's not enough room in the rotation, try them in the bullpen. While you're at it, you may as well see if RH AJ Burnett ever filed his retirement papers.
2)DEFENSE-Mrs. Black-N-Gold was very surprised when she saw that the Pirates are tied for 3rd best in the NL with a .987 fielding percentage. They're 4th in the league with just 44 errors. This is good news for all concerned. With sometimes suspect pitching, it is a trend that needs to continue if they hope to make the playoffs. Limit the number of opportunities for the opponent by limiting the number of balls that hit the grass.
3)GRIT-This is one of those type of unquantifiable traits that every team needs. Manager Clint Hurdle refers to it often. Following the dreaded June swoon, the Buccos exhibited tons of grit by bouncing back in a big way to start the month of July. They need to continue to show every bit of grit to continue to battle for a playoff spot. That's what so cool about this team. If one guy gets down, another teammate will pick him up. Grit happens.
4)YOUTH-The story of how the Baby Pens helped the veterans in Pittsburgh go from out of the playoffs straight to the Stanley Cup is well-documented. Mrs. Black-N-Gold isn't saying that the kids from Indy would lead the Buccos all the way to the World Series, but they can give this team the the shot in the arm they need. The young pitchers certainly have more upside than some of the current starters. And it's always good to have energy off the bench if not in the starting lineup. Let's see if these kids are alright, too.
Mrs. Black-N-Gold feels if the Pirates can make the necessary adjustments, they could be playoff-bound again this year. But a one-and-done wild card isn't good enough. Get ready for the 2nd half of the season and a run to the World Series. Let's Go Bucs!!!!!