Originally written on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 11/18/14
We have seen this scene before in Pittsburgh. The last two seasons, they have started off hot, building false confidence in their fan base that for the first time in two decades their Pirates were again relevant.  In 2011, they won more than 70 games for the first time since 2004, but with a 72-90 record, their losing season streak marched on to 19 straight years. In 2012, they went 59-44 from April through July, looking poised to break the consecutive losing seasons steak, but they collapsed in the end of the season, finishing 20-39. And the streak lives on. Twenty years of embarrassment, pain, and a whole lot of losses -- that is what Pirates fans have had to endure, but this season, the Pirates are back in the spotlight in the early months of the season, and this time around, Pirates fans have reason to be optimistic that the third time will finally be the charm.  One of those reasons is that not only are the Pirates off to a hot start this season, they are off to the BEST start in the MLB. That's right, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the first team to 50 wins and are the best team in the MLB.  But how could a team that has been miserable for a generation, become the best in the league? As Pirates fans can attest, it has been a slow, long process. All of the success of the Pirates has to start with Andrew McCutchen. In the NBA, cornerstone players are more prevalent due to the fact that one player can impact a game more easily in basketball than in baseball, but with Cutch's ability to dominate all five facets of the game, he has easily become the Pirates' most valuable player over the past two seasons.  He blossomed into one of the best players in the game last season, hitting 31 home runs with 96 RBI's, while maintaining a .327 batting average. He won a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger award last season, as well. His numbers this season, however, are not as impressive, thanks to a slow start. He has racked up 9 home runs and 41 RBI's with a .293 average. But he remains a good hitter with impact in the middle of Pittsburgh's lineup that everyone can depend on when the game is on the line. That is essential to have for a team to contend. But what the Pirates have lacked in past seasons is other impactful hitters to surround Cutch with. And that is where hitters like Starling Marte, Pedro Alvarez, and Russell Martin step in. Martin has been a veteran presence on many contending teams and was definitely a smart investment for a young Pittsburgh squad. The ironic part is that the Pirates outbid the mighty New York Yankees for the right to call Martin their starting catcher.  Although Martin has become a leader in the lineup, Alvarez and Marte have paid dividends in the statistical side of things. Alvarez came on to the scene last season in a major way, blasting 30 home runs, but he already has 20 at this point in the season and looks poised to go for the 40 home run plateau. On the other hand, Starling Marte looks like Andrew McCutchen 2.0 in his second season, as he is emerging as one of the best leadoff hitters in the league. He has notched 51 runs, eight triples and home runs, 22 stolen bases, all while holding up a .287 average.  But what has made this team so special is their pitching. From the emergence of Gerrit Cole and Jeff Locke to the veteran leadership of A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano this starting rotation is stacked with major production. They lead the league in team ERA so it should be no surprise that they are always in a good place to win a ballgame.  Their bullpen has also had a major hand in Pittsburgh's success. Jason Grilli leads the league in saves and Mark Melancon has quickly become one of the best setup men in the majors. If the Pirates have the lead by the eight inning, you can pretty much turn the T.V. off because you know Melancon and Grilli will finish the last two innings off with no problems.  But what should caution Pirates fans to get overly excited for the third straight season is that Pittsburgh ranks 20th in runs scored. To put that into context, they rank only two spots higher than the Houston Astros. This is important because it means that the Pirates are winning a great deal of close games and the question whether they can keep that up for the long haul has to arise.  We have seen magical teams like this before that have not scored many runs, but relied heavily on their pitching to get by and make the playoffs. The 2012 Oakland Athletics are a great example of one of these teams, but that level of dependence on pitching always has its limits.  The Pirates are definitely a good enough team to make the playoffs, but that is their ceiling. They are not going to win a series in the playoffs due to their major inexperience and lack of run production. Pitching does win championships, but you also need to score runs at a much higher rate than the Astros to be a legitimate contender.  But for Pirates fans, I'm sure making the playoffs for this season would be good enough. After 20 straight losing seasons, an appearance in the playoffs would obviously whet their appetites. But this team is so young and talented that the national league has to take notice for the future. This may not be the season that the Pirates fill the void in their fans' hearts left by Barry Bonds' errant throw in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, but like last season and the year before that, it is a step in the right direction. Pittsburgh, you have a reason to cheer on the Pirates again. Welcome back.  By: Matt Levine Twitter: @Matt_TFJ
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dolphins teammate on Dion Jordan: It’s a bad situation

Texans reportedly the favorite to be featured on ‘Hard Knocks’

Report: Goodell will not recuse himself from Brady appeal

Will Smith suspended eight games for 'foreign substance'

Report: Kobe Bryant likely to retire following next season


Don Shula named in painkiller lawsuit from former NFL players

Kyrie Irving questionable for Game 2 versus Atlanta

Michael Sam signs with CFL’s Montreal Alouettes

Ex-A&M quarterback Kenny Hill transferring to TCU

Michael Bennett compares Pete Carroll to Willy Wonka

Jim Kelly: There is no doubt Tom Brady cheated

The Los Angeles Angels are finally finding their groove

Re-evaluating all 30 MLB teams at the quarter mark, ranked

Is virtual reality training the next leap forward for football?

Warriors a very shaky 2-0 against the Rockets

NFL icon Bud Grant zings Pats with Deflategate joke on Twitter

RG3 announces birth daughter's birth on social media

Don't listen to Nick Saban, the bowl system is just fine

MLB scores partial victory in minor league wage lawsuits

Ranking the NBA Playoffs' most significant injuries

WATCH: Will Smith ejected for foreign substance on arm

Guy behind NFL's social media trolling of Pats is a Jets fan?

In defense of 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Jim Kelly: No doubt Tom Brady cheated

Post-combine NBA Draft big board: Top 30

Ex-players sue NFL for conspiring to push painkillers

Astros surprising, but can get better with Correa

Here come the Giants

Aaron Hernandez got new tattoo in prison

TUF weekly recap by NOS® Energy Drink

Ten players who could benefit due to PAT rule change

Five QBs set for breakout campaigns

Report: Lakers will pursue Thibodeau

MLS leaders struggling with attendance

LBS: I was a contestant on Sports Jeopardy!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.