Hunter's 21st season will long be remembered in Pittsburgh as the season that David Trinidad ruined everything.
The Studdabubbas were holding their own early in the season with a 34-25 record. The pitching was, of course, lousy but the hitting was hot. The Studdabubbas decided to add a little more pop to their lineup by making a play for 34-year-old David Trinidad. The Bubbas gave up SS Frank Turner and LF Tony Grove, who weren't really in the long range plans, so it seemed like a smart move. Trinidad is a 6 time All Star, has hit over 500 homeruns, and has a .924 career OPS. Granted, he was getting older but he had to be an improvement, right?
Not right. Trinidad had his worst season ever. He hit .223 and just 10 homers in his 99 games with Pittsburgh. But, if that wasn't bad enough, the entire club fell apart. From that point on, the Studdabubbas went 47-56, finished with a .500 record and 4 games short of a wildcard spot.
OK. Trinidad probably isn't the real reason things went south. Pittsburgh also had several injuries to their already poor pitching staff and some of the hitters who performed well last season didn't this season. Darron Stoddard dropped 50 points from last season's batting average. Charlie Carson's slugging percentage dropped 40 points. Jimmie Henriquez's average dipped from .356 to .231. Hopefully, these guys can bounce back next season.
One player who continues to perform is Matt Buchanan. The 24-year-old first baseman hit .318, 50 homers and had a 1.053 OPS. He was one vote short of tying for the NL MVP award. Things may have been different had Studdabubbas management remembered to turn in their votes. Oops.
Season 22 should be a true disaster. Pittsburgh has been stockpiling some young pitching but they aren't quite ready for the bigs. But a lot of the pitchers they have now are getting old and will probably be moving on. Free agency is probably out of the question because Pittsburgh is notoriously stingy and good pitchers don't exactly come cheap in this world. Here's hoping the young pitching will be ripe before the hitting begins to rot.