It’s been a long time since anyone considered the Pittsburgh Pirates a legitimate postseason threat – much less a potential World Series champion. But, it appears as though the Pirates are all but locked into the playoffs, barring a miserable last 3 weeks of the season. The only question remaining is whether or not they will win their division, and avoid the Wild Card play-in game. Here are my thoughts on why (or why not) the Pirates could make a deep run into the playoffs, and potentially win it all.
3 Reasons Why
- Pitching – all around. Not just the starting rotation, not just the bullpen. If I told you to name the top 3 team ERA’s in the NL, who would you think of? If you weren’t reading this blog, I doubt many of you would realize that the Pirates have the 3rd best team ERA in the NL (3.31). And, to show you that it isn’t heavily weighted in one area: they have the 4th best starting rotation ERA (3.58), and are 2nd only to Atlanta in bullpen ERA (2.90). Great pitching beats great hitting in the playoffs.
- Justin Morneau – in the month of August, Morneau had an impressive .836 OPS with 9 HR (more than half his season total), and 21 RBI. This is much of the reason the Pirates picked him up from the Twins. And, if the Pirates make a deep run in the postseason, he is going to have a lot to do with it.
- Base-running – the Priates are 3rd in the NL (and well ahead of every other playoff team) in the sabermetric stat UBR – ultimate base running. It’s a stat that attempts to place a value on how much value a player (or team’s) baserunning adds to their play. To put it into numbers, the league average for UBR is 0. An above average player or team is a 1.5, a great baserunning player or team is a 4, and an excellent player or team is a 6. The Pirates score a 4.7 as a team in UBR. This is a stat that takes into account all that players do on the bases – not just stolen bases. But, the Pirates lead all NL contenders in stolen bases, too – just for good measure.
3 Why Not
- Inconsistency – through the first 3 months of the season, the Pirates were an impressive 51-30 (.630 win pct.). But, since July 1st, they have been unable to play consistent baseball. They’ll win 12-8 one day, and lost 10-0 the next. They’ll win 6-2 one day, and lose 10-1 the next. Other than a 5-game stretch against the Rockies and Marlins in early August, they haven’t been able to put together a win streak of more than 4 games the last 3 months. In fact, their win pct. since July 1st is .492 – one game below .500. Limping into the playoffs doesn’t usually add up to great success.
- Offense – yes, it’s bad enough that their offense, in general, gets put on this list. They currently sport a .707 team OPS. That’s good for 18th in baseball. The only other teams that will even come close to sniffing the playoffs with an OPS that low are the Yankees (24th) and maybe the Royals (22nd). Pittsburgh also ranks 22nd in total runs scored – the next lowest ranked playoff contender is the Dodgers (17th). And, that includes 40 games against the Cubs, Brewers, Marlins and Astros. How much worse might their offense look in the playoffs against legitimate pitching staffs?
- Error-prone – only the Milwaukee Brewers have committed more errors (101) than the Pittsburgh Pirates (100) in the NL. Errors turn into runs very quickly in the postseason.
Where do you think the Pirates will finish in 2013? Vote below: