The patch helped tremendously with the desyncs in game. I would also recommend trying the Optimization mod that should be updated tomorrow--it helps a lot with speed.
The pirates are hard (for me to balance). I love harder pirates but they lag the game terribly in great numbers and are so powerful that their raids can unbalance map design strategies. For example, if you made a map for balance between "X" number of players, each pirate base is like an additional player.
The AI is much better in Entrenchment and Best in Dipolmacy. The diplomatic options are layered and subtle and require a little study and thought to get the benefit of of--I call them a plus. I don't prefer to play with diplomatic victory conditions on but the diplomacy side is a ggreat addition allowing you to team with Ais and making you choose from another layer of development when deciding your strategies.
The pirate raid strength plays well as part of the diplomatic game but the raids I think should be structured to the cash offered for them. The low experience point value of pirate ships accomodates this quite naturally.
Finally, if they could also somehow determine each pirate base's growth on some sort of plundered income standard it would be better than automatically growing fleets and strength. Maybe pirate bases/fleets could be changed to expand tech and fleets by converting the experience and resource value of destroyed ships and structures or even plundered worlds into the income they need to expand--rather than just having it automatically done.
I think Diplomacy was a plus and well worth it.