lol. Someone just discovered the Pittsburgh Pirates about five minutes ago. I’ll take the under on that 89 wins. A rotation of Burnett, Wandy, Jeanmar Gomez, Locke, and Liriano is going to be quite bad over the long haul.
They also have the prospects to make a big trade at the deadline. Acquiring someone to take over at third, short, or in the back end of the rotation should help them counteract some of the anticipated regression.
Comment by Devern Hansack — May 30, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
They’ve looked pretty good against the Cards so far this year. Even Jonathan Sanchez was in line for a win against the Redbirds before he had his start rained out in the 4th. Looking forward to seeing how the year plays out on the field. Let’s talk again after that five game stand Bucs v. StL end of July, early August.
I don’t mean to be the “gotcha” commenter, but in your Wednesday chat you had the Pirates at 87 wins and falling short of a WC spot. Did something change in the last two days, or did you just give it a more thorough look and decide to bump them into the playoff picture?
Answers in a chat are pretty much always just pulled from the top of your head without doing any real analysis. The question spurred me to actually look at their position in a bit more depth, which is why I wrote the post.
Best Pirates team in 20 years, without much competition. If Cole’s stuff begins to play up at AAA, he’ll be an upgrade over Gomez in the next month. Whe rest of the rotation is pitching at a level that they could easily maintain for the rest of the season. The bullpen, similarly, has no obvious reason for collapse. Both the starter and bullpen FIP and xFIP are lower than their respective ERAs, but not so much so that a correction would cause them too much of a regression in terms of wins/losses. As for the hitting, getting a SS sure would be nice, though perhaps too expensive, but they’ve finally filled the hole at catcher that Jason Kendall left forever ago, and McCutchen finally has a stud to play with in Starling Marte. This team should sit comfortably in the high mid to high 80s in wins at the end of the season, and only get better over the next two years.
they’ve got rotation depth coming themselves. Barring a setback, Gerrit Cole could be in their rotation in the 2nd half. They should look to upgrade at SS tho I don’t know who’ll be out there and so they may just be able to turn to Mercer or D’Arnaud. I think they are fine at 3B with Alvarez.
And, considering that Gomez (and/or Locke) will most likely not be in the rotation ‘over the long haul’, you’re showing some arrogance and ignorance at the same time.
Additionally, either by intention or lack of reading comprehension, you’re ignoring the fact that their offense has *under-performed*, as Dave makes persuasively clear in his article….that you probably didn’t read.
Anyways, you added nothing to the conversation. Good work.
They were 11 games over at the all-star break last year and still found a way to finish 4 games over .500.
They were 2 games over two years ago at the all-star break and finished 18 games under .500
I don’t know if it is depth, or scheduling, or what but I’d take the under in a heartbeat at 89 wins. Baseball Prospectus has them projected to 87.5. Even that seems optimistic. Until proven otherwise, this is a team that has a bad history of finishing the season.
The Pirates have played more games against teams under .500 than any other team in baseball. I dont think this is baked into the Projected Standings here at Fangraphs, but it needs to be noted before we predict a playoff spot.
So they went 15 games under .500 in the second half two years ago and 20 games under .500 last year and this year they are currently 13 games over… so at the second half rate of the last two years they would finish this year with something like 78 wins.
Dave, good article. I also am a believer in the Pirates this year, but I have a question for you. I am just curious how much weight we should put into this year’s performance at this point vs. the rest of the season projections. I realize that Zips and Steamer take the season’s numbers into consideration for their projections, but it still seems like sometimes the projections don’t adjust far enough for what seems like a change in skill. What are your thoughts on this?
To revise and extend, so its clear I’m not just playing gotcha, there is an actual difference here. At 53 games in 2012, the Pirates were 1 game over .500. At 53 games in 2013, the Pirates are 13 games over. That’s 12 wins in the bank.
Even if we project the remaining 109 games for the 2013 Pirates to follow the same path as the last 109 for the 2012 Pirates, the Pirates still finish 1 game above .500. Yes, that’s shy of 90 wins, but the exact-same-109-projection is silly and dumb and the first 53 games of 2013 means we should expect a better path over the remaining 109 in 2013 than the last 109 of 2012.
Except there’s no reason to believe they will be “quite bad” A.J. Burnett has been the 6th most valuable pitcher in the NL last year. Liriano is 27th in only 4 starts with 0.9 WAR. Now it’s doubtful over 12 starts he’d be at 300% of 4 starts (0.9 WAR), but I feel comfortable going a bit over 150%, so 1.5 WAR. He’d be tied for 11th.
If that’s your #1 and #2, Wandy Rodriguez is the #3 at 61st with 0.5 WAR. Absolutely fine. Locke and Gomez are probably both fringe #5 starters, with Locke having a bit more upside than Gomez, but overall with the success of AJ and Liriano, you’re looking at an average staff. If you want to regress AJ a bit and Liriano a good bit, then you’re probably below-average, but certainly not “quite bad.”
That doesn’t even include the ability to add rotation members (Charlie Morton, a healthy James McDonald, Gerrit Cole or a trade). The pitching won’t be this good in terms of ERA, but it won’t turn into a sinkhole either.
Also, I’ll take the over on 89 wins and 100$ if you are interested.
With this said, I hate the Reds maybe more than any team in the league and sincerely hope they fall on their face. Dusty Baker’s brainless comments (or perfectly normal ones for him) regarding Chapman’s “Whoops,” moment against Nick Swisher were awful. I’d like to see how he’d react if “Oops!” Trevor Rosenthal threw one at Joey Votto’s face.
“but Morton, McDonald, Cole, and Karstens could be waiting in the wings”
Perhaps, but there’s not a lot of “there” there, if you know what I mean. McDonald might be alright, but Karstens and Morton don’t seem to be worth getting particularly excited about. Although league-averageish to a little worse may be OK if Burnett, Liriano, et al continue pitching really well.
They also went 34-19 in June and July last year. Why doesn’t that factor into your projection?
I don’t have a lot of faith in the Pirates keeping this up either… mainly because I’ve been conditioned to think that way. But aside from regressing the pitching performances, it’s hard to make an objective case against it.
Yeah… if you take today’s date. But take, say, the all-star break last year where they were 11 games over .500. Much later in the season so you’d expect the projection to be even more valid. You’d project them to win something like 90 games. But they won 79.
Now, just because they have done this the last couple years doesn’t mean it is not random. But I am inclined to believe, until shown otherwise, that these guys wear down, lack depth, something.
Why would you be inclined to believe that, though? Slightly related data point: of the five current Pirate starting pitchers, only A.J. Burnett was in his current role as of last year’s ASB. Why would this team “wear down” because that team “wore down”?
And, as I mentioned above, why does the same theory not apply to the coming months? Aka if the Pirates are a team that “always dominates the summer months” because last year they went 34-19 in June and July, will they be 28 games over .500 going into August this year?
Perhaps the Pirates have played more teams with sub .500 records because they’ve beaten those teams and those losses are contributing to their losing records? It would be interesting to see opponents records with the Pirate games removed.
Comment by RaiseItPirates — May 30, 2013 @ 4:29 pm
Or if one went in a “way-back machine” and saw that this comment had already been made repeatedly right in this thread.
Last year at this time, the Pirates started Matt Hague at 1B, Casey McGehee at 3B, and Rod Barajas behind the plate. Kind of a different group of players from today.
I’ve been a Pirates fan since Clemente. As much as I want to see them break .500 and make the playoffs, it’s still too soon for me to feel comfortable on either count. Watching the last two collapses causes me concern. But I would also say I think this team is much more solid in the SP and RP areas. Russell Martin has been a godsend when compared to Rod Barajas or Chris Snyder. Starters need to go further in games. Grilli and Melancon can’t sustain this pace (obviously). SS is a black hole. I do think there is good picthing help in AAA. James McDonald is NOT going to contribute to this team.
They don’t need to retract their analysis. They only need to admit that they were wrong to claim that Huntington will not be good enough to lead the organization. They made their case and their analysis was not mindlessly wrong or inappropriate. And if the Pirates falter late in 2013 as they had the past two seasons, Charlie and Wilbur will again find supporters for the views they expressed this past off-season.
There has been a ton of Huntington hate from Wilbur on BucsDugout and PiratesProspects. Charlie had somewhat turned sour on Huntington within the last year, but he hasn’t been nearly as anti-Huntington as Wilbur.
Neither have made many comments recently that I’m aware of regarding Huntington in posts (maybe they have within threads but I obviously haven’t read every comment on the site), but at this point I think it is pretty clear that almost everybody underestimated the hole the Pirates were in when Huntington took over and how long it would take to fix. No one for over a decade and a half could figure out how to fix the Pirates, but Huntington seems to be on the right track. He deserves a ton of credit.
Ah, early season Liriano, he’s a really great pitcher, isn’t he. Come June 15 or so we’ll start hearing him talk about dead arm and then it’s up to the GM/manager where it goes from there. If he could pitch every 10 days, he would be amazing all year long.
The idea that because the Pirate teams of the last two years faded in the second half means that this year’s team will do the same, as some are suggesting, is pretty weird. It’s like saying because we had a rainy spring last year, we will have a rainy spring this year.
Honestly, I don’t understand all the love for Pittsburgh. Their offense is basically McCutchen, Marte, Walker, Jones, Martin, and Alvarez. And their pitching is only average. Sounds more like a 78-83 win team. I’ll be pulling for them, though.
Comment by Josh Donaldson's #1 Fan — May 30, 2013 @ 11:56 pm
Their pitching has certainly been much better than average so far. #2 ERA in the majors, #7 FIP, #8 xFIP, and by far the best high-leverage numbers in the majors in the third most high-leverage innings. Whether they can sustain it is one thing, especially relying on the pen as much as they do (though there are a few more nasty arms available in the minors for that, and I’m not talking about Cole and Taillon), but, using the present tense as you did, their pitching is currently excellent.
I think that’s an unfair characterization. They were reasonably critical and leaned towards not retaining NH, etc. That stands in stark contrast to some of the far less nuanced Pirates ‘analysis’ and commentary in much of the Pittsburgh, which seemed to insist that almost everything the FO had done was terrible.
I’d be curious as to what exactly you feel they should retract?
Comment by Brendan McFadden — May 31, 2013 @ 1:20 am
Considering the changes in roster, you’re basically suggesting that the weather this spring will be the same as last spring even though you moved from Maine to Georgia.
I usually enjoy browsing through the comments here – the brains of this site’s consumers routinely amaze me. However, recently I feel like there should be a basic “article comprehension” quiz after each piece that one needs to pass before they’re allowed to say anything…
Because this is the 21st century and we understand that homeruns and RBI’s are not the be all and end all. He has a wRC+ of 77. I’m not saying he won’t improve, but he hasn’t exactly helped the Bucs this year. That being said, he’s probably better than this and will likely have a better second half. This should help Pittsburgh deal with the inevitable regression of other players.
And Snider. That gives you seven, auto-out Barmes or (preferably) Mercer is 8th, then a pitcher. That ain’t too bad.
Comment by SprayingMantis — May 31, 2013 @ 9:32 am
Dan Duquette comes to mind. But yeah, Huntington has done a very good job. I’d kind of like to see them make a move for Lee or somebody this year, but at the same time, I don’t want to see them mortgage their future. It should be bright.
Wait, the Pirates have 8 offensive players and you seem to believe it’s a bad thing that only 6 of them contribute to the offense? I could argue about those six, but how many NL teams have more than six? I can’t think of any.
You forgot to mention that Snider is putting up an OPS+ of 112 in RF, so I think that counts as contributing to the offense.
So in other words, their offense is only seven out of eight starters. As opposed to, say, the Reds, whose offense is basically Votto, Choo, and Phillips.
Or if you want to be analytical about it (this is Fangraphs, after all), the Pirates have more starting position players with OPS+ above 100 (6) than either the Reds or Cardinals (5 each); the Pirates have more players with >50 PAs with OPS+ above 100 (10 of 13) than either the Reds (5 of 12) or Cardinals (6 of 10).
If anything, I would say that the numbers indicate that the Pirates’ offense has been less concentrated among a small number of players than either the Reds or Cardinals, which makes them less vulnerable to an injury or slump. Votto is putting up an insane 173 OPS+. A fastball off the hand could do serious damage to the Reds’ offense.
I think the difference this year for the Pirates is depth. Should anybody but Wandy or AJ regress, options are available. Morton and Karstens aren’t flashy but they get the job done: I.e. 6 innings and still within1-2 runs. Offense probably won’t average 10 runs a game but they are due to improve. I’d happily take a 90 win season just to get the monkey of losing off their backs.
The most interesting thing from this article to me (and that’s not an insult, the entire post is well done and interesting) is that the Tigers lead in wOBA differential and yet have had mediocre W-L results. I think there’s another article there somewhere, and it’s one I’d like to read. :)
Not sure I agree with the Cole part. Wandy-Liriano-Burnett aren’t going anywhere, Locke would need a real string of awfulness to be removed from the rotation at this point, and Karstens or Morton could replace Gomez. Cole could pitch his way into the rotation, but I wouldn’t call it a lock, especially not with the way he’s pitched so far at AAA.
The Bucs are better because they’ve learned how to win. The offense has been average at best.So thatis the key this team has the potential to lead the NL in homeruns ,I believe if it picks up ,which it should, the Bucs might win 95…
The ESPN baseball so- called experts are waiting and I think hoping that the pirates fail again ,so they can massage their already inflated egos…
Yes he did the same thing last year before going off for a wRC+ of 145(June), 125(July), & 165(August) then tailing off in September (70). And his 77 so far this year is mainly because of a God awful April (49).
Comment by gorillakilla34 — May 31, 2013 @ 2:19 pm
you have to learn to proofread your work. i stopped reading after the first paragraph. The Pirates are for real because of the bullpen.