Yes, folks, there are still Pirate fans in existence. Smart ones, too. Matt Bandi helps oversee the blog Pittsburgh Lumber Company, one of the finest team-centric blogs around. Matt was nice enough to humor me for this series’ edition of My Questions Three.

You can also follow Matt on Twitter at @mbandi

Run prevention has been *ahem* a bit of a problem for the Pirates so far this season. The starting pitching staff in particular has really got pummeled. Do you see any glimmer of hope with any of these guys? What’s going on?

Yes, the rotation will be better. It can’t get much worse, that’s for sure. Charlie Morton has produced some awful results, but his peripherals indicate that he has actually pitched pretty well. His K and BB rates have been excellent all season. He has been undone by a disastrous HR/FB rate and a BABIP that is much higher than should be expected. He also may be tipping his pitches, a flaw that is definitely correctable. Zach Duke and Paul Maholm have established themselves as average starting pitchers, and Ross Ohlendorf should provide similar production when he returns from the DL next week. The fifth starter will be an issue all year, and the shuttle between Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh will remain busy.

The pieces are there for this to be an average rotation once things settle down. That being said, the pitching matchups this weekend do not exactly favor the Bucs.

Andy LaRoche seems to finally be living up to his promise. What are your thoughts on his early season performance, and do you think he will continue to have this sort of success?

LaRoche will not produce like this all season, as he is relying on a high BABIP at this point. But he will certainly hit well enough to remain somewhere in the lineup once Pedro Alvarez arrives, and his plus defense at third may even force Alvarez across the diamond to first base. LaRoche was a league average player in his age 25 season in 2009, and is just now entering his prime. He is unlikely to be an All-Star level player, but he should be an above average complementary piece for the Pirates for several years.

Neal Huntington is definitely a lot more saber-friendly of a GM than David Littlefield, and he’s been pretty candid with the fans. What are your overall impressions of him, and are you satisfied with his job performance to date?

I am a huge fan of Huntington’s, and I think he has done just about everything in his power to turn this franchise around. He came on board when the Pirates were in an absolutely awful situation. They had virtually nothing in the minor league system and the major league roster was mostly made up of aging mediocrity. The organization essentially did everything wrong for His only real option was to draft well and wait 5+ years for that talent to begin arriving in Pittsburgh. He did a good job to add several younger, talented players through trades to supplement the solid drafting and speed up the rebuilding process.

The Pirates are still a long way from competing, and will still require many breaks to go their way to be successful. But for the first time in years, Pirate fans have legitimate hope for the future. Neal Huntington is the reason for that hope.

Erik Manning

Erik became addicted to Cardinals baseball as a young lad growing up on the mean streets of O'Fallon, MO. He moved away to Tulsa to attend Bible College, where he met his wife, who talked him into moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, also known as the Bermuda triangle of baseball. His dream is to see the MLB.tv blackouts end, and his other interests are theology and philosophy of religion. He is the parent of two young boys.

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