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Predicting Pirates' 2017 record

Was a disappointing 2016 just a glitch for Andrew McCutchen, or has the outfielder begun a steady decline? AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Reason for optimism: Homegrown rotation talent on the Opening Day roster corrects the glaring weakness that resulted in an aberration last year. It's not a trend.

Reason for pessimism: That sound you heard was the window slamming shut on the Andrew McCutchen-era Pirates playoff appearances.

Entering the 2016 season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were the only team in baseball to have won more games than the previous season for five consecutive years. They also had a matching five-for-five streak in going "over" their season win total during that time. Still, despite the squad coming off 98 wins and a third-straight playoff appearance in 2015, one preview from last season read, "If the surge in runs allowed that I foresee (occurs), the Pirates might turn out to be a very surprising under-.500 team."

To quote from the blockbuster musical "Hamilton": "These are wise words, enterprising men quote 'em. Don't act surprised you guys, 'cause I wrote 'em."

Yes, I'm reliving that call and taking a self-directed bow because it was a near-perfect projection in terms of components. It's also instructive when looking at Pittsburgh's 2017 outlook.

The 2016 offense actually improved year over year, which really wasn't a surprise, even though the 2015 team won 98 games. There is virtually no change to the Pirates' lineup this year, although the bench loses veterans Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez.