If the Pirates are finally going to creep above mediocrity this season it will require James McDonald to evolve into a staff ace. The Pirates hurler who touches the low 90s went 9-9 last season with a 4.21 ERA. He would have been much better if he was able to do better than a walk every other inning.
This season McDonald has been better. The opposition has had a hard time hitting him, to the tune of a .213 average. Plus, his walks are way down this season resulting in a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA. He is riding a hot streak, allowing just one hit in seven innings in a tough no decision against the Rockies, then picking up a win with 10 K’s in Atlanta, followed by another win with one crossing the dish against him by a solid Reds offense.
McDonald’s success is entirely dependent on his control. He has the stuff to keep batters off edge at the plate, but he has to keep them off the bases via free passes. With the Pirates looking to develop young talent with the hope of contending in the short-term, McDonald will have to lead a staff that is comprised of retreads such as Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett.