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  1. 72-90 is 18 games under .500 because it would take them 18 wins to get back to .500.

    Comment by Doug Gray — September 20, 2012 @ 4:58 pm

  2. 18 more wins would put them at 90-72…

    Comment by Daniel — September 20, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  3. “the Pirates play decently for a while, and then they fall off a cliff.”

    This just isn’t true, they have been buried at the break many times. Generally they have played bad baseball all year. Its really just the last two years that fit. The previous annual trade deadline sell off explains most of your combo data.

    Your article offers no potential answers for the current collapse. Let me help you in 2011 it was a collapse of SP, in 2012 its been a perfect storm of inconsistent hitting, SP, and bullpen. Clint Hurdle ain’t helping.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — September 20, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

  4. “Under .500″ is a slightly incoherent rhetorical convention; generally speaking, the number of games under .500 that you are is the number of wins or losses that you are under the break-even point, rather than the combined total of wins and losses. So 72 is 9 games less than 81, and 90 is 9 games more than 81, which would be the number of wins and losses in a .500 season.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 20, 2012 @ 5:07 pm

  5. BTW, this is the latest in a season that the Pirates have been .500 since 1992. They are usually buried well below by now with the exception of 1997 and 1999.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — September 20, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

  6. “Decent” may have been a stretch. Maybe “mediocre” or “bad but not too bad.” But the point is, the Pirates often play like an average- to below-average team earlier in the year. If the Pirates were a 72-win team every year, then they would have won 80-90 games at once in the last 20 years by dumb luck. But they haven’t been a 72-win team.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 20, 2012 @ 5:15 pm

  7. No matter what, I think this season has to be considered a success. Obviously, I don’t think Hurdle is the manager of the future. I think Huntington has been demonstrably more successful than Bonifay or Littlefield, and I don’t think that the decent showings in 2011 and 2012 were nearly as much of a mirage as the Kevin Young-Jason Kendall teams in 1997 and 1999.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 20, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  8. Doug is right. Just Google some examples. Wins minus losses or vice versa is how it’s always done.

    Comment by Justin — September 20, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  9. This team just doesn’t fit the profile you’re describing. These are the records at the AS break since 2000.

    2000 – 34-44
    2001 – 38-49
    2002 – 33-53
    2003 – 38-48
    2004 – 39-47
    2005 – 39-48
    2006 – 30-60
    2007 – 40-48
    2008 – 44-50
    2009 – 38-50
    2010 – 30-58

    Their season was done by July in all cases sans maybe 2008 when they sold everyone off. They may play slightly worse over the 18 years in teh second half, but a late collapse is novel to 2011 and 2012. You have to be up before you can collapse.

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — September 20, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

  10. I agree, they are in much better shape under Huntington. I’m not sure he’s the guy to close the deal, but at least you can see a scenario where they can win in the near future,

    Comment by PiratesHurdles — September 20, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  11. I have all of the month-by-month win-loss records for the 19 years between 1993 and 2011. And there are maybe 20-25 winning months over the entire period. So it’s not like they’ve been within striking distance at the end. But they are still much, much worse in August-September than in April through July. Mediocre as they always have been in the first half of the season, the way they play at the end is really strikingly bad.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 20, 2012 @ 5:34 pm

  12. My bad, Justin and Doug. Maybe there would have been a better way for me to say it. What I really mean is, a 72-win team only had to have won 9 more games to have a .500 season.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 20, 2012 @ 5:36 pm

  13. Alex can you compare / contrast this cliff diving with my favorite masochistic fandom choice? I saw SNY put up a stat saying that the Mets have been equally as bad as the Buccos the past few years in the second half.

    Comment by chri521 — September 20, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

  14. @PiratesHurdles: I was very skeptical of the Wandy deal and other very minor deals at the deadline where they punted on picking up an impact player and instead just got a few guys in exchange for prospects they won’t miss. As Alex implies, while this season’s growth is nice, do you think they should have been more aggressive? I’m thinking the Brewers would have peed on themselves if offered Hanson to headline the Grienke deal instead of settling for Segura, for example.

    Comment by Paul — September 20, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

  15. It’s pretty simple. They have been in rebuild mode for a long time. So they often trade away their better players. Even if they don’t do a fire sale, they usually deal one of their back end relievers or start benching veterans in order to see what they have in younger players.
    In the case of years when they haven’t struggled and then fallen off it’s a case of them playing over their head. Nobody picked this team to be good at the beginning of the year. The only team that has less talent are the Astros, and really that’s entirely because of Andrew Mccutchen.
    Although I actually have some hope that the Buccos are turning it around. Cole and Taillon are top flight prospects, Mccutchen, Marte, and Alvarez could be a good start to building a lineup and management seems to be making smarter moves lately.

    Comment by Preston — September 20, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

  16. The Mike Gonzalez for Adam LaRoche trade was not at deadline deal; it occurred during the offseason prior to 2007. Also, your Mike Gonzalez link points to a Catcher born in 1890 :)

    I don’t have data to support this, but I imagine some of the post-deadline dropoff is not *directly* related to lack of organizational depth but rather to being more likely to give playing time to rookies that would still be in the minors if the team were in contention. This might be splitting hairs though, as better depth would have meant that class of players would have been more talented.

    Comment by mickeyg13 — September 20, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  17. A few minor quibbles. A Mike Gonzalez trade for Adam LaRoche isn’t a bad deal when you’re trading a decent closer for an average 1B. Trading for Travis Snider and Wandy Rodriguez shouldn’t be classified as a misguided win-now trade. Rodriguez and Snider have value for this year and in the future.

    Also, Kris Benson may be league average, but he was pretty equivalent to Paul Maholm in quality. For an overall #1 pick he may not have been great and was a bit of a no brainer draft pick, but that’s a heck of a lot better than Tim Beckham or Bryan Bulling*sh!#*.

    Oh, and no credit for signing and trading for Joey Bats?

    Comment by Bob — September 20, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

  18. So the hypothesis is that they don’t have as much organizational depth as other teams performing at a .440 winning % level?

    Seems pretty weak, but I guess you could test this by looking at the distribution of WAR across their roster. If they are more top heavy in WAR than a typical terrible team than maybe they would be more prone to a September swoon then other similarly situated terrible teams. then again… who cares?

    Comment by Jason — September 20, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

  19. Chad Quals really??? In the 8th inning, really??? I mean Grilli’s arm isn’t gonna fall off if he goes another inning Clint!!! He’s been a real idiot lately in the decision making department! Pinch run for Fat Rod after he makes it to 3rd base?? Chase could have scored from first if dumb ass Clint would have pinch run him from 1st base!! Did Clint undergo a brain transplant sometime in late July?? Just asking? Maybe he’s got John russels brilliant mind now?? Dunno, just askin?? Nuttings so tight you couldn’t squeeze a fart out of him! Please, I beg u, please sell this team to someone else!!! Mark Cuban anyone? He likes to spend money!

    Comment by Grld Chz — September 20, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

  20. Yeah, wouldn’t it have been great to sell the farm for Greinke and THEN collapse and get passed by the Brewers.

    Comment by maguro — September 20, 2012 @ 11:47 pm

  21. Grilli has been awful in the 2nd half if you haven’t noticed. ERA well over 4 and a 1.36 WHIP last I looked. But I do agree that Qualls was an awful choice. I’d pick anyone else

    Comment by Steve — September 21, 2012 @ 1:05 am

  22. Wandy is an above average pitcher. I liked that deal.

    Comment by kick me in the GO NATS — September 21, 2012 @ 3:49 am

  23. Yeah, we drafted Joey Bats! And Bronson Arroyo was probably a good pick too.

    But looking at the drafts, the idea that the Bucs didn’t draft a single good player from ’94-’03 is shockingly true, if you just amend it to draft, sign, and get production out of that player.

    Super depressing.

    Comment by TKay — September 21, 2012 @ 8:59 am

  24. I just hope they finish over .500. I want to see them actually do that once. I think it’d be cool.

    It’s too bad they won’t make the playoffs, though…could you imagine a Pirates/Orioles WS?

    Comment by Ruki Motomiya — September 21, 2012 @ 10:18 am

  25. I bet the Pirates trade for Billy Hamilton because they are STUPID!

    Billy Hamilton is terrible and would fit in perfectly with their talentless team.

    Comment by Doug Dirt — September 21, 2012 @ 10:43 am

  26. It is poor reporting to compare Huntington to previous Pirates gm’s. Compare him to other gm’s around baseball and he won’t grade out very well. However, in fairness the minor league philosophy of handling prospects is absurd. Everyone in charge of development needs to go. It is’t like Huntington has not drafted talented players, they just haven’t been developed.

    Comment by Bill — September 21, 2012 @ 11:36 am

  27. Both Wandy and Grienke have pitched in 11 games for their new teams. bWAR counts are .3 to 1.0, respectively. I can understand if you’re argument is that they just were not a playoff team to begin with. But then why bother adding anybody at all? It calls into question whether or not they will actually ever go for it. We have the same issue in Kansas City, where management keeps talking about some crescendo of talent reaching the big club at some point. It just usually doesn’t work that way, and often times when it does life gets int he way and your perfectly planned Utopiateam is undone and you’re back to rebuilding.

    Comment by Paul — September 21, 2012 @ 11:53 am

  28. … and it will all happen again.

    Comment by Baltar — September 21, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  29. How is it “poor reporting” to compare the general manager to his two immediate predecessors?

    More generally, which current general manager would you rather have for the Pirates?

    Almost certainly Andrew Friedman.

    Probably Alex Anthopoulos, Jack Zduriencik, John Mozeliak, Frank Wren, Terry Ryan, Walt Jocketty, Kenny Williams, or Jon Daniels.

    Possibly Chris Antonetti or Billy Beane or Dave Dombrowski or Jeff Luhnow.

    I’m not sure about Dayton Moore or Jerry Dipoto or Kevin Towers or Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein or Sandy Alderson or Dan Duquette or Ben Cherington.

    And I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want Brian Sabean or Ned Colletti or Ruben Amaro or Michael Hill.

    My point is, Neal Huntington took the Pirates from a laughingstock into a baseball team in five years. I’m not sure that he’s better than half the general managers in baseball, but I’m not sure he’s worse than half, either. I think he’s solidly in the middle of the pack.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 21, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

  30. I think it’s great that the Pirates wanted to win and push their team to the playoffs. But they were clearly something of a paper tiger. They needed a lot more than Wandy.

    Comment by Alex Remington — September 21, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

  31. I thought they limped because of their peg legs……

    Comment by SomeGuy — September 21, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

  32. I would have thought that a Fangraphs reader would be smart enough to know that Nutting has been nothing resembling cheap. He has spent more than anyone in baseball on the draft since becoming the managing partner. There are other expenses to a MLB team than major league payroll. Mark Cuban doesn’t want to buy the Pirates. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow.

    I get the argument that Huntington hasn’t done enough in the draft with the money he’s been given. But the “Nutting is cheap” idea is a crutch that dumb yinzers continue to use with no basis in reality.

    Comment by Sir Spicious — September 21, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

  33. In the two years before NH took over the Pirates, they posted negative run differentials of -106 and -122.

    Then, in his first four years, they were:

    2008 -149
    2009 -132
    2010 -279
    2011 -102

    So twelve months ago, it’s fair to say that Neal’s stewardship had been basically a disaster. He’d taken over a bad team and kept them bad — except for 2010, when they should’ve been relegated to AAA.

    Maybe this year’s .500 team is part of an improvement trend. Or maybe it’s a blip. I honestly can’t tell.

    But the only GM’s I would definitely want running my team *less* than Huntington, are Dayton Moore and Jack Z.

    Comment by Bob — September 21, 2012 @ 5:56 pm

  34. I agree with this. He should have been absolutely charred for the decision to draft the one unsignable player in a draft that featured new rules that pushed more on the fence signable guys to signable than ever. Also, doing that knowing that unlike in the past, if you don’t sign that guy you don’t get to allocate the money elsewhere. If they had a dynamite farm system with depth up and down, maybe he could slide. But their farm system is very top heavy and overall still pretty bad. Just a horrible, terrible, no good decision. A fireable offense in my book.

    Comment by Paul — September 21, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

  35. What the crap are you talking about?

    Comment by Doug Gray — September 22, 2012 @ 12:31 am

  36. I’m not a Pirates fan by any stretch, but they have the makings of a pretty good team starting to come together. While the article acknowledges the 20 years of failure………I did not really see a concrete reason other than weak drafts.

    This team has better pieces than I’ve seen in years, of which, should help them in trades as well. I imagine they will beef up and be more than competitive in 2013.

    Comment by Givejonadollar — September 22, 2012 @ 1:38 am

  37. You’re stupid. And that is an observation, not an insult.

    Comment by Jason — September 22, 2012 @ 8:42 am

  38. Until they collapsed, I wanted to see Nats/Pirates NLCS and Athletics/Orioles ALCS. Bud Selig kills himself.

    Comment by Antonio Bananas — September 22, 2012 @ 8:37 pm

  39. Nice article, but I’d like to add one point. The 2003 trade of Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Cubs was a MLB-mandated salary dump:

    Then-Pirates GM Dave Littlefield compounded the disaster by getting jack sh!t in return, but rules are rules, and it’s not like Bud Selig can intervene with secret loans to teams. The same thing happened a few years back, when the Mets were short on cash and forced to trade 3B David Wright and his salary.

    Comment by gonfalon — September 24, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

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