Pirates' playoff hopes take a big hit with Marte's suspension

Starling Marte's suspension leaves a big hole on offense and defense. Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports

Losing a player to a drug suspension is never a welcome bit of news for a team, but if that headline ever comes down, you'd prefer it to be your fifth outfielder or maybe that last reliever out of the pen.

That is decidedly not the scenario put before the Pirates, who lost starting center fielder Starling Marte to an 80-game suspension. This is merely a flesh wound if you're exceedingly optimistic. The reality is that it's a major loss for the Bucs.

While the Pirates were legitimate playoff contenders coming into the season, there was little room for error. Back when Jung Ho Kang was expected to have his visa issues worked out in time for the start of the season, the Pirates had a roster projected to win somewhere between 82 and 86 games on paper. That's not a team that makes the playoffs in the so-called "average" scenario, but one that just needs a few more things to go right than go wrong.