A continuation of the series of retrospectives looking back at the regular season and how teams fared. They will be presented, from first to last, in order of their run differential as given by the BaseRuns formula and adjusted for strength of schedule, which I feel is the best measurement of a team’s actual talent level.
Number Twenty nine: Pittsburgh Pirates
By BaseRuns, the Pirates managed just above 700 runs scored which actually wasn’t too poor for the National League, about 20 to 25 runs below average. However, it was on the the defensive side that the Pirates became the Pirates that we have known for the past fifteen or so years. At an estimated 894 runs allowed, the Pirates were 60 runs worse than any other National League team and ahead of only the Texas Rangers in all of baseball. The 191 run spread between their runs scored and allowed was the worst in all of baseball, 22 runs worst than the Nationals.
The Pirates outfield went bonkers this season as Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady went from 14 runs above average to 66 in 2008 for the Pirates, which given that both Bay and Nady were traded mid-year to the Red Sox and Yankees respectively makes the improvement even more significant. Ryan Doumit helped chip in some good production out of the catcher position. Of course, that leaves the infield as the primary cause for the Pirates offense being below average.
The bullpen in 2007 benefited from good contributions from Matt Capps and Damaso Marte and while they both stuck around and were both still above average in 2008, they lost about a win and a half in value. Their supporting cast did them no favors, specifically Marino Salas, Evan Meek and Franquelis Osoria were collectively in the range of 23 to 30 runs below average.
As poor as the bullpen was, it was the rotation that torpedoed the Pirates hope for breaking the consecutive streak of below .500 seasons. Zach Duke rebounded from his disastrous 2007 campaign, but that was of little solace when Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny completed collapsed, leaving the Pirates with Paul Maholm and little else capable of posting even respectable lines.
The Pirates have some promise in their system, but much like the Giants, any hope of contention in the near future is going to hinge on their young group of starters fulfilling their promise. A hope that looks especially dimmer after a bleak 2008.
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