I also find the early pirate raids may be a tad too strong. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they are very hard to deal with.
I just tried something though, wanted to see what a minimal pirate raid would be, I played against an easy AI, without placing bounty on him, and, since it's said that the raid severity is affected by the expansion status, did not expand at all :
First, the raid stength basically never stays at "low" until the first raid is launched. It always steps up to "guarded" at some time before the launch. If I don't go colonizing it gets to "guarded" only seconds before the raid launch (at that point the AI had only colonized one asteroid, nothing else). If I go and colonize the asteroid nearby the strength seems to go to "guarded" nearly immediately after I get it.
With the AI placing no bounty on me, and me not colonizing, this is what I get : 10 Pirate Cutthroat, 5 Pirate Corsair, 11 Pirate Rogue. If I colonize I get the exact same guarded raid. Well, I think this may be kinda tough for a 0 bounty raid...
I think this is a bit tough because it takes a good amount of time and money early to set up defenses or a good fleet against that kind of raid, especially if you were expanding rapidly, your fleet is far away, you have not yet done research for defenses/ships, or you are unsure which planet the pirates are going to attack.
This might give the player who won the bid a too strong advantage early on, especially if he did not place much bounty to outbid the other. He can just focus on colonizing further or attacking while being nearly sure the other is spending all his money to prepare for the raid.
It would be cool if the 1.2 patch brought the pirates back to life in multiplayer. I fear that with their early strength however, the current pirates could decide too much of the outcome of a game...
So I think that just lowering a bit the early "weak" raids strength, and making so that the severity indicator does not jump up so quick that it's finally never on "low" if you play normally, would be a good idea.
Anyway thumbs up to the stardock team for bringing updates to this cool game !