The Pirates are tied for the best record in all of baseball on June 27th. This is a wonderful thing. It's also not a very meaningful thing starting on June 28th. The Pirates were in first place in July of 2011 and from late May to early August of 2012 they had one of (if not the) best records in baseball. Those runs meant nothing in either season outside of being fun for their own sake. The same applies to these first 78 games of 2013. If you remember back to spring training, I was pretty down on the upcoming season. It wasn't because I didn't think the Pirates could finish .500, but because I thought that .500 was the best that they could do and because I didn't think that was good enough compared to where I had hoped the Pirates would be after 5+ years of the Huntington/Coonelly front office being in charge. There are no excuses for a team that's 48-30, though. Fans can focus on 82 wins as a goal and that's fine and understandable, but I'm going to be sorely disappointed in a Pirate team that finishes 34-50. Enjoy today, because until the Pirates lock down a playoff spot the next game will always be more important than the one that just ended.
Last night James Santelli from Pirates Prospects put together a Pirate blogger roundtable with me, Brian from Raise the Jolly Roger, Cory from Three Rivers Burgh Blog, Jim from North Side Notch, and Tom Bragg from Pirates Prospects. We covered a ton of topics, from right field and the trade deadline, to Gerrit Cole, to James McDonald, to the Pirates' World Series chances, and way, way more. I think it was the first go-round for most of us doing a group video chat like this, but it came together nicely and was a lot of fun. Thanks to James for putting it together; I suspect that there will be semi-regular future episodes. You can check out the embedded video below.
Matt Klaassen has his catcher ratings for June up at Gettting Blanked. They don't include pitch-framing scores, but they do include just about everything else you would want to see to quantify catcher's defense. Russell Martin rates excellently as the fifth best catcher in baseball. Most of his contribution is canceled out by Mike McKenry, the fourth-worst catcher in baseball. Still ... average is better than what the Pirates had before this year.
David Schoenfeld looked at how many pitches the Pirates' bullpen has thrown yesterday and asks the inevitable question about overuse. I'm pretty much on-board with his conclusions; that it's a concern worth monitoring but not necessarily a pressing one. I do agree that trading for a late-inning reliever wouldn't be a bad idea. If the Pirates do what we think they're going to do with the upcoming pitching crunch, they're going to end up with a bullpen full of long relievers, plus Tony Watson (who can be shaky), Mark Melancon, and Jason Grilli. It's true that Bryan Morris closed in the minors and could be moved back to high-leverage innings in the big leagues, and it's possible that starters with really electric stuff like Charlie Morton could make lights-out relievers, but none of those things are slam dunks. Sometimes the best way to improve yourself is to double-down on what you're best at and ensure that you stay the best at it.
Enjoy today, Pirate fans. I certainly am.
I love two things about the Pirates - but one of those things has me nervours. First, I love that the Pirates are playing so well that when they lose it can be attributed to a specific thing - or maybe to a few specific things. In one loss to the Reds it was a Jay Bruce home run, in another it was a bad inning for Charlie Morton. We aren't losing b/c we suck, or nobody does anything right, or a ton of players do things wrong. When we lose we can almost pinpoint the thing that went wrong. That menas a lot is going right.
Second, I love how the Pirates win against average or below-average teams. We have had some slides, but we just won all the games against the Angels and the Mariners - bad teams. I'm sure we will lose some games against average or bad teams in the rest of the season, but when we win those games, it means we are taking care of business.
But the thing I am worried about is how we fare against good teams. I'd like to see a few series where we really play up to good competition. We did against the Tigers (although for some reaon I feel like we got some good breaks in that game) and a few other teams, but until we consistently win against good teams, I'll be nervous.
3-2 against the Cardinals,
They should be doing better than that?
I just said I was nervous about them - not that they didn't have some success.
But those records you set out illustrate why I am nervous. If the Pirates don't win the central they have that one game playoff. If the records you put up there could be translated to a percent chance of winning one game against a good team, the Pirates would only have a 60% chance of winning that game. Doesn't 60% make you nervous?
(Also, didn't we lose our series against the Nationals? But we won wour series with the Giants, so maybe they offset.)
Yeah - I hate the Brewers.
I wonder if Pat would entertain a WHYGAVS night if the Pirates make the playoffs? I might try to make a trip to Pittsburg if that happened. 20 years ago I was a kid listening to the playoffs in my garage - now I have my own kids, and what better way to start them off as Pirates fans.
@nickjuneau24 Think of the flip-side, though; the post-season is a bit of a crap-shoot, especially when there are no great teams. If the Pirates get to the postseason, there's no reason they can't win the whole shebang.
@nickjuneau24 Oh, I'll be a mess if they're playing in October. And if they're in the one-game playoff my fingernails will be gone by the third inning. Not worth worrying about now, but my specific concern for a one-game playoff would be how good pitching can make our offense completely disappear, and the stakes are so high that pitch count alone won't help us get into the bullpen.
But anyway, let's enjoy the upcoming sweep of the Brewers.
I guess what I am really getting at is that we can thump on the average team, but I still get nervous about the good teams. I guess that is just a new feeling for me though - thinking about the problems a fan of a good team has. Basically, accepting that we are good, but wondering if we are good enough.
@nickjuneau24 Not sure you're going to get much better than 60%. That's baseball. The 2001 Mariners won 116 games, but that means (looking at record alone and ignoring basically every meaningful statistic) if you put those Mariners in a one-game playoff against a team randomly picked from the entire league, they'd only have 70% odds of winning. I imagine a one-game playoff between any two playoff-worthy teams will always result in odds in the 52-48 range.
Look at it another way. Taking their records against each team as predictive (again, we're making everyone with stats knowledge cringe here), the Pirates will win the World Series as long as they don't play the Dodgers or Nationals. No reason to be nervous :)
I love that both CBS Sports and CNN/SI have the Pirates at the top of their power rankings, because they don't want to be late to the party. Genuflect, bitches!