It is always nice to look at the season in about 30 game chunks. While we are not technically through 20% of the season, we are 1/5 of the way to the 150-game mark. When you get to the 150th game of season, let’s face it, the remaining 12 games are either meaningless, which is most likely in the Pirate’s case, or they are the 12 most important games of the season. At this point in the season the Pirates stand at 13 wins and 17 losses, just coming off a series win over the mighty Dodgers. It is pretty amazing that they are this good, considering the way they have been managed. Baseball teams are easy to analyze. You look at the way they hit, pitch, field, and how they are managed. So, lets begin.
Hitting: Despite all the data out there hitting boils down to three things. The ability to get on base, the ability to slug the ball, and to score runs. On base percentage (OBP), the ability to get on base, the Pirates rank 17th out of 30 teams. OPS+ is a statistic of hitting and slugging with many factors taken into consideration, like ballparks, and competition. It is expressed as a number with 100 being the league average. The Pirates number is 97, which is a little below league average, which ranks them 19th. The most important thing a team needs to do with all of that, is to score runs. The Pirates so far are averaging 3.77 runs per game, that is 23rd in the Majors. As you can see, the best thing the Pirates do is to get on base, but they have a hard time hitting for power, and converting all of this into runs. None of this is surprising but overall, the hitters have not done too bad, and they have had a recent resurgence of the long ball, which really helped carry them to a series win against the Dodgers.
Pitching: We have to give the pitchers a little slack here, because their stats are a little skewed, due to the fact, they game up 21 runs in one game, Pitching, like hitting comes down to three stats. Run prevention per game, ERA+, another comparison stat that takes ballparks into consideration with a league average being 100, and Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that tells how well a pitching staff does at controlling what they can control, strikeouts, walks, and home runs. The Pirates have allowed 5.4 runs per game which is 29th in baseball. Their ERA+ is 86 which is 27th in the baseball. FIP for the Pirates is 4.19 that is 25th in baseball. The bottom line is the pitching does not look very good on paper, but they have done well at protecting leads. Considering nobody really knows what their role is on the staff, they have done ok. Without the one bad game the pitchers would be just about on par with the hitters, or even a little better.
Fielding: Fielding stats can be very hard to decipher. I go with one team stat that is on baseball reference, that is called Defensive Efficiency or shortened to DefEff. I think it is the best of all the defensive rating systems and takes into consideration the most factors that involves the defense. The Pirates have always been on the low end of scale, usually ranking in the lower 10, just about every year. This year is no exception where the Pirates rank 26th. Despite all the praise you hear from the booth about this team’s defense, in reality they really stink out in the field. Some of this has not been all their fault, because infielders have been playing the outfield for no apparent reason, other than to make them look bad. That is not to say there have not been bright spots and the potential to get better is certainly there.
Management: I am not just writing about the Manager of the Pirates Derek (Only the Shadow Knows) Shelton but the entire management team. There used to be an old radio show that was a mystery, called The Shadow. In the show as the mystery would begin to unfold, the narrator would always say who knows, only the Shadow knows. This is how I feel about the Pirates starting line ups and the thought processing that go into them. Who knows why they had Vogelbach leading off? Who knows why they played Cole Tucker so much in right field? Who knows why they tried other infielders in the outfield? Who knows why they only let starting pitchers go 4 to 5 innings? Who knows why there is a revolving door about who pitches in the 9th inning, when it is clear who should? I can tell you, only the Shelton knows. I do know this. This management team does not want to win this year, even if it was possible. The players right now are making tanking a little tough, because they are performing above expectations, doing much better in tight ball games. New blood hopefully will be coming up soon, which should make this team better. About this time last year, the team took a big swoon that pretty much lasted into September. We will see if that happens again. Management is certainly praying for it. We will revisit the Pirates after game 60 and get into more individual performances. I was kind to the individual players this time, because they may not be around after game 60.