Andrew McCutchen could be primed for a big season, but will it be enough to carry the Pirates above .500? (Image Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports)

2013 MLB Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

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2012 brought some hope back to the city of Pittsburgh, but once again the Pirates finished the regular season in a familiar position – below .500 for the 20th consecutive losing season. It’s easily the longest streak of futility among the four major sports, but the 2012 Pirates offered up the tangible idea that this team might be ready to take that next step. They finished at 79-83, 4th place in the NL Central, after making even the harshest critics admit at one point that “there’s a chance” that this team just might reach the playoffs, let alone finish with a winning record. They ran out of gas down the stretch, getting outgunned by more experienced teams but it was still a positive year for the Pirates.

With the start of the 2013 Regular Season upon us, it seemed like the ideal time to check in with each of our team sites here at FanSided MLB and check out what our experts have to say on the upcoming season. From Rum Bunter, here’s what Senior Editor Tom Smith had to say about the team’s best and worst case scenarios, as well as what’s most likely to happen.

Best Case Scenario

The Pirates rotation jumps in the Hot Tub Time Machine and cruise back to the glory days of old. Francisco Liriano, Jonathan Sanchez, A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, and James McDonald pitch lights out and carry the always slow starting Pittsburgh Pirates through the toughest early season schedule in baseball. The team adds flamethrower Gerrit Cole midseason and Andrew McCutchen leads a homer lovin’ high beta offense to Clint Hurdle’s lofty happy place of 95 wins.

Worst Case Scenario

A fast start doesn’t happen for the first time in three years. Key injuries hit the roster hard and at the trade deadline Burnett, Garret Jones, and Rodriguez are dealt. The Pirates finish behind the Houston Astros, earned that coveted first overall draft pick. Clint Hurdle claims the awful season taught his team valuable lessons, proclaims the Bucs will target 98 wins in 2014.

Most Likely to Happen

The team simply can’t score enough runs in Hurdle’s small ball system behind an aging pitching staff that doesn’t match last season’s fast start. The team makes a run at the end of the season, getting a lift from some talented youngsters, but falls short of .500, extending Planet Earth’s longest losing streak to 21 years.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates have to be credited for their loyalty after so many years of struggles. It can’t be easy rooting for a team that defines “loser”. There has to be reason for hope again though, right? The Pirates have long been trying to rebuild from the bottom up and last season there were finally some glimpses of the talent we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time for this team to take another step.

Don’t forget to check out Rum Bunter throughout the season for all of your Pirates news.

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