The Dominating Pirates and Whether It Can Last

A month ago, I wrote that it was time to take the Pirates seriously, as their 33-20 record was a strong enough start to put them squarely in the playoff mix, even if we didn’t think they were going to keep playing like a .622 team going forward. Well, since that post was published, the Pirates have gone 18-10, which translates into a .642 winning percentage. Rather than beginning their regression to the mean, they’ve gotten better.

So, now, it’s July 1st and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in baseball. They have a two game in the NL Central and a 10 game lead over the Washington Nationals for the second wild card. By pretty much any objective measure you want to use, it is now likely that the Pirates are going to make the postseason this year. At this point, wondering whether or not they’ll stay in contention is something of an outdated question; now, the real query now is just how good is this Pirates team?

Rather than starting with win-loss record to try to determine how much of that we should take seriously, let’s work our way from the bottom up instead. Here is the wOBA and wOBA allowed for every team in baseball, sorted by the difference between the two.

Team wOBA (Offense) wOBA (Defense) wOBA Differential
Tigers 0.339 0.296 0.043
Cardinals 0.326 0.291 0.035
Braves 0.320 0.294 0.026
Red Sox 0.344 0.320 0.024
Athletics 0.320 0.298 0.022
Pirates 0.306 0.287 0.019
Rangers 0.321 0.302 0.019
Rays 0.325 0.307 0.018
Rockies 0.333 0.317 0.016
Reds 0.314 0.299 0.015
Angels 0.325 0.319 0.006
Orioles 0.334 0.329 0.005
Indians 0.329 0.325 0.004
Giants 0.312 0.309 0.003
Cubs 0.305 0.306 -0.001
Nationals 0.295 0.300 -0.005
Blue Jays 0.319 0.324 -0.005
Diamondbacks 0.311 0.318 -0.007
Dodgers 0.306 0.313 -0.007
Phillies 0.310 0.320 -0.010
Brewers 0.311 0.321 -0.010
Mariners 0.301 0.314 -0.013
Royals 0.301 0.315 -0.014
Padres 0.306 0.320 -0.014
Yankees 0.297 0.313 -0.016
White Sox 0.295 0.311 -0.016
Twins 0.313 0.334 -0.021
Mets 0.292 0.313 -0.021
Marlins 0.276 0.314 -0.038
Astros 0.295 0.351 -0.056

Despite being tied for 19th in offensive wOBA, the Pirates are 6th overall in wOBA differential because of their run prevention, which has been the very best in baseball. An average offense and elite run prevention might not be as well received as other paths to success, but there’s no question that it works if you can pull it off. There’s also no question that the Pirates overall win-loss record has gotten some help from sequencing, as a 19 point wOBA differential matches up closer to a 90 win team rather than a 100 win team.

Sequencing is mostly randomness, but it’s not entirely random. A team with an excellent and deep bullpen is more likely to outperform their expected win-loss record than a team with inferior relievers. There’s a reason the Chicago Cubs record doesn’t match their wOBA differential, and his name is Carlos Marmol. The Pirates bullpen, led by Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon, has been absurdly good this year, and here’s where that shows up:

PiratesHighLev

I’ll let you guess which of those marks represents the Pirates’ run prevention in high leverage situations. And yes, that is the Dodgers on the far right, giving up a .360 wOBA when the game is in the balance. That Brandon League contract sure is working out well. The Pirates, for reference, are at .216; no other team is below .270. Between their three best relievers — Grilli, Melancon, and the unheralded Justin Wilson — they’ve faced 144 batters in high leverage situations and allowed opposing hitters to hit .135/.206/.194, good for a .183 wOBA. Those three have faced 39% of the total batters that have hit against the Pirates in critical situations, and they’ve been basically unhittable.

If you feel like we had this same story last year, you’re not wrong. The Baltimore Orioles bullpen basically carried them into the postseason last year, and even they weren’t as good at putting out fires as the Pirates relief trio has been this year. Last year, the Orioles relievers posted a +13.86 WPA, the highest mark of any relief group in baseball history. Through 81 games this year, the Pirates have a +7.42 WPA, which would prorate out to +14.84 over a full season. In other words, the Pirates bullpen has been more instrumental in winning games in the first half of 2013 than the Orioles bullpen was last year.

Of course, this is the kind of thing that isn’t all that predictive. The Orioles bullpen WPA is historically unique because relief pitcher performance is extremely volatile. After all, did anyone look at Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, and Justin Wilson before the season started and say “hey, that’s an all-time great bullpen in the making”? The thing with surprisingly awesome performances is that they often end as suddenly as they started. The 2013 Baltimore Orioles bullpen has put up a +0.43 WPA. This is an unstable foundation to build upon.

But, also, the 2013 Baltimore Orioles are also still a good team, and still a playoff contender, even with their bullpen no longer dominating like they did a year ago. To counteract that regression, they simply turned Manny Machado and Chris Davis into superstars. It is too simple to look at a team’s performance based on great relief performances and predict that a crash is coming, because it ignores all of the players on the team that aren’t relievers, and their performances aren’t set it in stone either.

The Pirates bullpen is going to perform worse in the second half, if only because there’s no possible way for them to be any better. Regression is coming. But can the Pirates offset those losses by making up ground elsewhere, as the Orioles have done this year?

Well, it seems unlikely that anyone on their team is about to go all Chris Davis on the league, nor do they have any Manny Machados hanging out in Triple-A waiting for a promotion, but there are areas where this team can expect some improvement in the second half as well. The Pirates right fielders have hit just .227/.292/.366, so whether it is improvement from Travis Snider and Garrett Jones or a trade for a more competent outfielder, they should get a better performance from that spot on the field in the second half.

On Friday, Jeff noted that the Pirates pitchers have been historically terrible at hitting this yaer, posting the worst line of any group of pitchers in Major League history so far this season. Pitcher hitting doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that can make much of a difference, but in the NL, pitchers bat a couple hundred times in the course of half of a season. Going from a .092 wOBA to a .150 wOBA — roughly league average for pitcher hitting this year — doesn’t sound like it would be a big deal, but 58 points of wOBA over 175 PAs adds up to nearly nine extra runs, or almost one entire win in the current run environment.

There aren’t enough offsets here for the Pirates to keep this pace up, or even really keep up anything close to this pace. Our rest-of-season forecasts, which use the ZIPS/Steamer projection systems, still believe the Pirates are basically a .500 team over the rest of the season. Clay Davenport’s model gives almost the exact same result using different inputs, so it’s not just our projections being overly bearish. There’s a lot of room for regression in how the Pirates are currently winning games.

But at the same time, the rest of the season will not be played with the rosters as currently constructed. The Pirates .500 rest-of-season forecast does not include any July roster upgrades, and the Pirates have put themselves in prime position to make some additions to bolster their team for the stretch run. And perhaps most importantly, they’ve built a formidable cushion. Playing .500 ball the rest of the way would result in a 92-70 record, which would almost certainly be enough to capture one of the two wild card spots. And regardless of what the franchises record has been in recent second halves — seriously, any analysis that begins and ends by pointing to the second half record over the last two seasons is completely worthless — there is no objective reason to expect them to play worse than .500 over the rest of the year.

This Pirates team probably isn’t going to keep the Cardinals at bay, and they might even get passed by the Reds, who are a better team on paper as well. But, they’re a solid team that shouldn’t be expected to fall apart, and their roster construction could make them a very tough team to deal with in October.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


96 Responses to “The Dominating Pirates and Whether It Can Last”

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  1. chief00 says:

    “By pretty much any objective measure you want to use, it is now likely that the Pirates are going to make the postseason this year.” The words that Pirates faithful everywhere are rejoicing to read. Good on ya, from a Jays’ fan. :)

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  2. Dave says:

    Cutch is playing solid baseball, but he’s not been the worldbeater he was for much of last season. It’s possible that he goes nuclear in the second half. Same with Neil Walker, who’s had a power outage for most of the first half.

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    • Steve says:

      Cutch could go off, but Walker? He’s not good enough to “go off”, although he has been underperforming somewhat.

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    • pitnick says:

      McCutchen really hasn’t had a hot streak all year, which is pretty amazing considering he’s still hitting .292/.360/.462.

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  3. Richie says:

    Overly “bearish”, no? Don’t want to be crashing any impressionable kids’ stock portfolios now.

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    • Jason B says:

      ???

      “But, they’re a solid team that shouldn’t be expected to fall apart, and their roster construction could make them a very tough team to deal with in October.”

      “By pretty much any objective measure you want to use, it is now likely that the Pirates are going to make the postseason this year.”

      “An average offense and elite run prevention might not be as well received as other paths to success, but there’s no question that it works if you can pull it off.”

      “Rather than beginning their regression to the mean, they’ve gotten better.”

      I missed the bearish part…

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  4. Dingbat says:

    I think you mean “bearish” instead of “bullish,” no?

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  5. Richie says:

    Oh, and while we’re tossing around insults, any analysis that begins and ends by pointing to October roster construction is completely worthless. Not a jigger’s more of evidence there than there is regarding the repeatability of 2nd half results.

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    • Bobby Bonilla says:

      What insults? You are comparing two different things. Second half collapses in previous seasons are not indicative of anything this year. However, yes they have a roster constructed well for October. However that also is not indicative of reaching the postseason. Good thing Dave didn’t say it was!

      Did you even read this or are you some cards fan who is butt hurt that you actually have competition from two teams this year?

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    • rotowizard says:

      Actually, that’s not true. I’ve seen analysis that in the 7-9 innings of post season games hitters tend to be more aggressive by a fair amount, making relief pitchers that much more important, since winning games faster than your opponent is more important than accumulating wins over a given amount of time.

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    • Richie says:

      Would you care to cite your post-season research? As of when I last subscribed there, BP not only had renounced their past suppositions, they’d concluded nobody had found any predictors at all of post-season success. Yes, that included “roster construction”.

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  6. Nathan Nathan says:

    Given their bullpen strength and their starting pitchers’ liability at the plate, the Pirates might consider pitch hitting for the pitcher much earlier in the game, perhaps by shifting a starter to the pen and cutting rest or by shifting a starter to the pen and pinch hitting every time for pitcher every fifth game.

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    • pitnick says:

      Their bullpen already leads the majors in IP. Not sure how much more they can squeeze out of them, especially when their starters’ limbs keep falling off.

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      • Jason B says:

        Yeah, I would agree with Nick’s point. Not that one data point is evidence of much, but you wouldn’t want them to go the “Atlanta Braves’ bullpen burnout” approach if they can help it.

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  7. AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

    It’s a little early to call a playoff team just yet. Last year on July first they were 1 game behind the Reds and tied for a wildcard slot. They ended up well under .500 by the seasons end.

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    • Jason B says:

      Perhaps, but there is a MASSIVE difference between “tied for a wildcard slot” and “10-game lead for the second wildcard.” Just incredibly huge.

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    • Joe says:

      “seriously, any analysis that begins and ends by pointing to the second half record over the last two seasons is completely worthless”

      seriously

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    • matt w says:

      “Averagemeansaverageovertime”

      That’s the definition of the gambler’s fallacy.

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    • Jeremy says:

      Note to Webster’s– “well under .500″ has been changed to mean “2 games under .500″

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  8. Ivan Grushenko says:

    “The Pirates right fielders have hit just .227/.292/.366, so whether it is improvement from Travis Snider and Garrett Jones or a trade for a more competent outfielder, they should get a better performance from that spot on the field in the second half.”

    So you’d stick with these two instead of the blockbuster proposed trade of Taillon, Polanco and other stuff for Stanton?

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    • Steve says:

      Stanton isn’t going to the Pirates, just like Upton didn’t last year for Marte (el oh el)

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    • mch38 says:

      Marlins insist that they don’t want to part with Stanton. I have this feeling that Andre Ethier will be the Pirates right fielder.

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      • Krog says:

        Have you looked at Ethier’s contract (5/85)? There is no way the Pirates would take that on even if the Dodgers pay most of it. Nate Schierholtz or Alex Rios are much better trade targets.

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        • Jason B says:

          Why would they not take it if the Dodgers pay most of it? If the Dodgers cover, say, $45M, then 5/40 it suddenly looks pretty reasonable, no?

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        • Krog says:

          I wouldn’t want Ethier on contract for another 4 years. He’s a 31 year old corner outfielder with bad defense who was never a star (career high 3.2 WAR in 2008, 3.0 in 2012). Sure, Ethier can turn it around and get back to being a 3-win player, but why would the small market Pirates risk $40 million on that chance?

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        • Jason B says:

          That’s fair. I’m just not sure if they have any great options available (as in a solid, 3-ish win player for a not-ungodly price). Scheirholtz perhaps?

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        • Joe says:

          fuck no, Ethier at any price for that many years is a complete waste of money. Gregory Polanco please!

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  9. Steve says:

    I don’t believe in this team. Jeff Locke has gotten awfully lucky, Liriano hasn’t turned into a pumpkin yet, and a lot of these surprisingly great relievers are on pace for 60-70-80 innings. We’ll see how long they hold up until October, and even if they do, how much they have left.

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  10. Anon says:

    Russell Martin is making a huge difference. One of the best FA signings of the offseason.

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  11. D says:

    Biggest concern for them is the possibility of overworking their ‘pen and turning their strength into a weakness (poor instead of an average).

    The 2011 Braves, who were heavily dependent on Venters/O’Flarety/Kimbrel due to an average offense and a starting rotation injuries, tanked when their big 3 finally faltered down the stretch and couldn’t hold a lead in September.

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    • D says:

      The 2011 Braves bullpen WPA:
      April – August : 1st in MLB
      September: 27th in MLB

      WAR is a bit kinder, so some bad luck was involved in addition to their poor performance.

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    • Anon21 says:

      As Dave pointed out at the time, there is little reason to think that Venters, O’Flaherty, and Kimbrel lost their effectiveness because they were exceptionally exhausted by throwing maybe 2/3rds of the innings relievers were routinely expected to complete as recently as 20 years ago. It’s much more likely that the 2011 Braves bullpen was just a really dramatic case of normal reliever volatility.

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      • Iron says:

        That is like saying starters regularly threw 300 innings 40 years ago so a pitcher at 250+ innings losing his effectiveness is unlikely due to fatigue.

        I agree that one anecdotal case does not make a rule, but your counter-example of how relievers were used 20 years ago is an even worse argument.

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        • Anon21 says:

          Here, how’s this: in 2011, Jonny Venters threw 88 innings. In 2010, he threw 89 innings and was excellent. In 2009, he threw 91 innings as a starter and kind of sucked.

          Eric O’Flaherty was actually the guy who saw the biggest jump in 2011, going from 48 innings in 2010 to 73.2 innings in 2011. He was so worn out by the end of the season that he didn’t give up a single damn run in September 2011. (Probably let some inherited runners score; Fangraphs game logs don’t say.)

          Game, set, match on this bullshit narrative. The 2011 Braves bullpen fell apart because that’s what bullpens do. If I never again hear anyone whine about how the organization used its best relievers a lot as if that’s somehow a bad thing, rather than the point of bullpen management, it’ll be too son.

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      • TKDC says:

        But you have to come up with reasons that are easily digestible, so you have an excuse to berate the front office for not mixing things up. They missed the playoffs after a giant collapse, how could they just go into the next season with basically the same roster?
        [/ignores that they won 94 games the next season]

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      • some.guy says:

        Not only that, but the bullpens poor performance was likely amplified by the fact the Braves scored a total of 8 runs that month, making every one the bullpen gave up more dramatic.

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        • Ian R. says:

          8 runs? Damn, that’s one bad month…

          (They scored 87, which is still bad, and your point is still totally valid.)

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    • Retirenutting says:

      Several of the Bucs best “close” prospects are back end relief variety. Duke Welker, Vic Black, Stolmy Pimentel will likely see time in the ML bullpen, Jared Hughes is on his way back, Kris Johnson can help, not to mention that whoever doesn’t hit the rotation once Wandy, McDonald (if ever), Burnett come back.

      By August, you could even throw guys like Jeff Karstens and Kyle McPherson in to that hat. Brandon Cumpton, too.

      The pitching depth is there. We just watched two low leverage guys — Mazzarro and Watson — combine for 8 innings of shutout baseball against the Brewers after yesterday’s rain delay!

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    • K says:

      As a Pirates fan, that gets me worried. But this bullpen doesn’t have a “Big 3″. Rather, almost their entire bullpen is dealing. Grilli, Melancon, Wilson, Mazzaro, and Morris all have great numbers.

      Tony Watson, who had several rough outings in May, has allowed just 1 hit and 0 runs in his past 9.2 IP. Ryan Reid has a small sample size (only 9 IP) but he’s posted solid numbers (1 ER).

      If this wasn’t enough, the Pirates’ pitching staff is ridiculously deep. Jeanmar Gomez will move to the bullpen when Burnett and Rodriguez come back, and Charlie Morton could do the same.

      I think it’s safe to say that the Shark Tank have enough pieces to avoid a 2011 Braves collapse.

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  12. rockymountainhigh says:

    Why does leverage increase late in games? Is it strictly because there are less outs left to score runs?

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  13. Z S says:

    Dave’s analysis made me curious about the Pirates and other teams’ hitting performance in high leverage situations. Turns out the Pirates excel there as well, with a .348 wOBA in high leverage situations – good for 2nd in MLB. Similar to their pitching performance, though, that would suggest that regression is on the way.

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  14. Devon says:

    Awesome article dude. Only thing I’d disagree with is with a side point you made, when you said “At this point, wondering whether or not they’ll stay in contention is something of an outdated question“, is premature.

    Pittsburgh’s collapsed 2 straight years after they’ve reached about 100-110 games. I’m not sure this team is able to keep it up for a full 162. They have yet to prove they won’t wear out after 100 or 110 games. They won’t have to collapse, but they could just wear out again and just miss the post-season even if they do win 81+ games. So at this point, I think it’s just a bit too early to suggest they’re guaranteed to stay in contention to the end.

    I hope they do get into the post-season tho, ’cause it’d be awesome to see them in the playoffs. In fact, wouldn’t it be cool to see a Pirates vs Orioles World Series?

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    • TKDC says:

      Even a collapse would involve them staying in contention. Staying in contention does not equal making the playoffs. With a 10-game cushion on WC2, a roster that looked like the Mets (I almost said Marlins, but no) would almost surely “stay in contention.”

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      • Devon says:

        I guess it all depends on how one defines “contender”. I don’t consider a team to be a contender if they’re slumping through September. A contender in my mind, doesn’t need to make the playoffs but they do need to play like they can get to the playoffs.

        For example, imagine the Pirates make it to 70-40 (.636) through their 110th game. If they follow that up with 21-31 (.404) to finish the year, they wouldn’t be contenders IMHO. Sure, they might finish 1 GB of a playoff slot, but, that’s the only similarity they’d have with real contending clubs.

        Look at last season’s Dodgers… on August 15, they were 65-53 & leading the NL West. Then they were a .477 team the rest of the way. They were really not contenders by September 15th even tho they were tied for the 2nd WC spot & it felt obvious.

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        • TKDC says:

          Well, then, you are going to have to live with the fact that you use the word “contender” in a very odd way, and also in a way that requires the reader to understand some esoteric “feel” for the team. My guess is that to you the 2000 Yankees (13-17 in September, outscored by 51 runs) didn’t “feel” like a contender. How about the 2006 Cardinals, who finished 49-59 after May?

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        • Andrew says:

          If the Pirates finished this year 91-71, they would probably make the playoffs by five games.

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      • Jason B says:

        But if that 91 wins gets them into the playoffs (as in your example), that’s all that matters in the end.* There is no correlation between playing well going into the playoffs (or momentum) and playoff success.

        *or more exactly just getting in used to be all that matters. Now avoiding the crapshoot of a single elimination game confers significant advantages. But the point about pre-playoff momentum stands.

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    • Copying Joe says:

      “seriously, any analysis that begins and ends by pointing to the second half record over the last two seasons is completely worthless”

      seriously

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      • Ian R. says:

        There’s a difference between saying that the Pirates WILL collapse because they’ve done so the last two years and saying that they MIGHT collapse because they’ve done so the last two years. The former is dumb. The latter is valid.

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  15. joecatz says:

    all i will say here is this.

    Here’s the Pirates records and standings going back to 2009 on July 1st.

    2009: 36-42 on july 1st. 26-57 rest of the year.
    2010: 28-51 on July 1st, 29-54 rest of the year.
    2011: 40-41 on July 1st, 31-50 rest of the year.
    2012: 42-36 on July 1st, 37-47 rest of the year.

    the key to them actually not breaking the hearts of every fan in Pittsburg rests on Grilli and melancons shoulders. If you believe they are both for real, then so are the pirates.

    But until September rolls around I wouldn’t count anything.

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    • Sir Spicious says:

      so they repeat last year and go 35-46 (adjusting last year’s finish for differences in games played) the rest of the way. that’s 86 wins. which puts them pretty close to, if not in, the 2nd wildcard spot.

      so go ahead and wait until September, but even the most simplistic analysis puts them in playoff contention.

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    • Jason B says:

      Plus, I find it hard to believe that two relievers will be the prime contributors, either positively or negatively, to their continued success and/or ultimate failure. I mean, those two guys will be the primary reasons of whether they go 46-35 or 35-46? Not overly likely.

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  16. joecatz says:

    and I think all you have to do is look to the Rangers last year, who sat at 50-30 with the best record in baseball on July 1st, with a 5.5 game lead on the Angels and a 12 game lead on Oakland.

    they went 43-39 the rest of the way and came dangerously close to missing the post season.

    anything can happen, and the Pirates play a tough schedule mid august on.

    cardinals 9 times, reds 6 times, Rangers 3 times, dbacks 3 times, Padres 7 times, with just 12 games between the brewers and Cubs sprinkled in there.

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    • Jason B says:

      As of 07/01, the Pirates have the single highest postseason odds at 94.3% per BP, followed closely by ATL (93.6%) and STL (92.9%):

      http://www.baseballprospectus.com/odds/

      Could the Pirates slip, trip, stumble, and fail to make the postseason? Sure; just look no further than the example you cited (TEX 2012). The odds that they will, however, are currently about 16-to-1 against.

      Again, a 10-game (10 game!) lead for a wild-card spot is considerable.

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  17. AverageMeansAverageOverTime says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but currently aren’t the 2 wild card teams Stl and Cinn?

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  18. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I hope the Pirates do well the rest of the season, it’s good for baseball.

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  19. Cardsfan says:

    Not this again. IT’S THE PIRATES. They’ll get passed by the Brewers by the end of September.

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  20. James says:

    The worst best team ever?

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    • Justin says:

      Probably, haha. But as a Pirate fan, I don’t think I’d have the streak end (as well as a winning streak begin) in any other fashion. what the Orioles did last year was just fun, and the Pirates have a chance to exceed that.

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  21. jdbolick says:

    The parallels to the 2012 Orioles are rather striking. I expected the column to focus on or at least mention the dubious starting pitching. In Jeff Locke and Jeanmar Gomez, Pittsburgh has two of the five luckiest major league starters according to ERA – FIP. I find myself oddly believing in A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano (shouldn’t the media be talking about Ray Searage?), even though they haven’t been as good as their results indicate. So if we assume some regression for those two plus Wandy Rodriguez, along with a major correction for Locke & Gomez, then things start to look scary. Gerrit Cole has hardly looked like a world-beater either. Throw in a below average offense and it looks like a major collapse in waiting. Fortunately they have a substantial lead, as I’d love to see the Pirates make it after enjoying the Orioles (my team) last season.

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    • JRoth says:

      FIP doesn’t see defense, and the Pirates have the #2 defense in baseball.

      There’s more to run prevention than DIPS.

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      • jdbolick says:

        They have largely the same personnel that they had last season when they didn’t rank nearly that highly.

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        • danno says:

          Not really. Snider, Marte, Gaby, and Martin are all defensive upgrades and this is their first full year with the Pirates.

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        • jdbolick says:

          According to the fielding metrics, Marte has been a little better this season than Marte + Alex Presley was last season, while the numbers like McCutchen a lot more this season than last. Everyone else is showing up as a significant downgrade in 2013, though, including Sanchez and Snider. The Pirates have been lucky, not good.

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    • CJ in Austin TX says:

      Wandy Rodriguez may not be back for a month or more. He recently underwent a platelet injection into his elbow. I like Wandy and don’t want to wish anything bad for him, but several major league pitchers ended up requiring TJ surgery after trying platelet injections first.

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    • Andrew says:

      It’s also worth pointing out that Locke’s MAJOR regression would still make him a perfectly adequate No. 3 SP. FIP is below 4, it’s not like he’s pitching at replacement level.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Actually he is pitching at replacement level, as FIP and even xFIP don’t accurately reflect the degree of his luck thus far. Locke is not only leading the league in strand rate and second in BABIP, but his HR/FB% is also well below his usual figure. I’m guessing that FIP and xFIP like him because of the high GB%, but he hasn’t been this an extreme a groundball pitcher since the low minors in 2008. In the majors and minors the previous four seasons he didn’t induce anywhere near this many grounders. Basically, he’s due for huge regression in just about every way, adding up to a 4.5-5.0 ERA starter.

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  22. Matt says:

    “Sequencing is mostly randomness, but it’s not entirely random. A team with an excellent and deep bullpen is more likely to outperform their expected win-loss record than a team with inferior relievers.”

    This. Thank you. I’ve been saying this for years when people bring up pythagorean w/l. Elite bullpens make it a weaker tell-tale stat. Look at the Orioles last year. Their pen was near the best in baseball, and they outperformed their expected w/l. The 07 diamondbacks had 5 relievers with an era+ above 150. Outperformed their expected w/l by 11 games.

    Wanna beat the “computer nerds?” Stack the bullpen.

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    • Jason B says:

      Except its notoriously hard to ‘stack a bullpen’, as past success is often not too indicative of future success. (Hence teams like the Rays and A’s employing the ‘burn and churn’, scooping up relievers on the cheap while other teams overpay for fleeting past successes.)

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      • jdbolick says:

        Hell, the Pirates did that this season as well.

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        • Jason B says:

          Yeah exactly!

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        • Calogero says:

          Hanrahan, Veras and Resop were all average to good in 2011 and were all essentially very cheap. Add Grilli last year, and Melancon this year to some extent, as well as system products like Wilson, Hughes and Morris (a throw-in in the McLouth trade that also included Locke) and this bullpen has been built very smartly and very cheaply for a while.

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        • Addywaddy says:

          Morris was in the Bay trade and was one of the key pieces. Never a throw in.

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  23. swyck says:

    All I want to know…is this the year they finally break .500?

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