The Pittsburgh Pirates Aren’t Regressing

At the end of May, I wrote a post noting that it was time to take the Pittsburgh Pirates seriously. At that point, they were 33-20, and I spent the first few paragraphs of the piece explaining why the Pirates were probably playing over their heads and were due for some regression. After all, the Pirates weren’t going to keep winning games at a .622 pace. They were interesting, but they weren’t that good.

Well, on the one hand, the prediction of coming regression has been correct. After going 33-20 in their first 53 games, they’ve gone 32-22 in the 54 since that piece was published. 32-22 is worse than 33-20. They’ve regressed, technically.

On the other hand, we could actually say that the Pirates have gotten even better.

In that piece, I produced a table of each team’s wOBA differential, and noted that the Pirates 18 point advantage over their opponents suggested that their record wasn’t all luck. They had the same wOBA differential at that point as teams like the Braves, Rays, and A’s, and so while a .622 clip couldn’t be expected, they were playing like a team that should stay in a playoff race for the entire year.

Well, here’s that same table, updated through yesterday’s games. Run differential is on a per game basis, by the way.

Team wOBA (Offense) wOBA (Defense) wOBA Differential Run Differential Winning %
Tigers 0.343 0.298 0.045 1.25 0.576
Rays 0.328 0.297 0.031 0.64 0.593
Braves 0.324 0.298 0.026 0.94 0.583
Cardinals 0.322 0.297 0.025 1.12 0.585
Red Sox 0.340 0.319 0.021 0.89 0.596
Pirates 0.307 0.286 0.021 0.60 0.608
Reds 0.316 0.297 0.019 0.76 0.551
Athletics 0.314 0.296 0.018 0.59 0.583
Dodgers 0.316 0.301 0.015 0.07 0.538
Rangers 0.322 0.308 0.014 0.12 0.546
Indians 0.328 0.316 0.012 0.48 0.551
Angels 0.325 0.324 0.001 -0.19 0.453
Orioles 0.327 0.327 0.000 0.19 0.546
Cubs 0.308 0.309 -0.001 -0.18 0.458
Rockies 0.324 0.326 -0.002 -0.12 0.468
Diamondbacks 0.311 0.314 -0.003 0.16 0.514
Blue Jays 0.324 0.327 -0.003 -0.19 0.467
Brewers 0.312 0.317 -0.005 -0.59 0.426
Giants 0.305 0.311 -0.006 -0.56 0.443
Mariners 0.310 0.317 -0.007 -0.50 0.467
Nationals 0.299 0.308 -0.009 -0.34 0.482
Mets 0.301 0.310 -0.009 -0.30 0.457
Royals 0.301 0.313 -0.012 0.05 0.510
White Sox 0.297 0.312 -0.015 -0.73 0.381
Yankees 0.295 0.311 -0.016 -0.06 0.523
Phillies 0.307 0.326 -0.019 -0.76 0.467
Padres 0.303 0.324 -0.021 -0.52 0.459
Twins 0.306 0.332 -0.026 -0.52 0.433
Marlins 0.277 0.309 -0.032 -0.90 0.387
Astros 0.295 0.354 -0.059 -1.46 0.340

Two months ago, the Pirates +18 point wOBA differential ranked eighth best in baseball; today, their +21 point wOBA differential ties them with the Red Sox for the fifth best mark in the sport. Instead of regressing, they’ve almost perfectly maintained their early season performance. Their offensive wOBA went from .306 to .307 and their wOBA against — the part of their team that looked to be the most “flukey” — actually went down from .288 to .286. Basically, the Pirates have spent the last two months winning the exact same way they won the first two months: elite run prevention and a good enough offense.

In reality, the Pirates are just the National League version of the A’s, who are running away with the American League West based on success with the same formula. The A’s wOBA is a little higher (.314), but they play in the American League and have the benefit of the DH. If you excluded pitcher hitting and just focus on what a team has gotten from their position players, the Pirates .319 wOBA actually rates as the 15th best in baseball, especially impressive given that they play in a fairly extreme pitcher’s park. Park adjusted, their position players have combined for a 104 wRC+, ninth best in the game.

Like with the A’s, the offense is solidly average, maybe even a tick above, but it’s the run prevention that is carrying the day. The A’s rank second to the Pirates in opponents wOBA, coming in at .296, and again, the number is slightly higher but also comes in the DH league. In terms of overall difference, the Pirates have the A’s edged out 21 points to 18 points of wOBA, but in practical terms, both teams are winning the same way.

The comparison continues when we look at why both Pittsburgh and Oakland have been so successful at keeping opponents from scoring. Pittsburgh’s BABIP allowed is just .267, #1 in baseball. Right behind them are the A’s, at .270. Behind them are the Rays, at .278.

What do all these teams have in common? A heavy focus on defensive value. The Pirates, A’s, and Rays have spent the last few years pursuing athletes who can both hit and cover ground in the field, and each of these teams has put multiple center fielders side by side in the outfield. In addition, the Pirates and Rays are two of the most aggressive shifting teams in the Majors; BIS posted updated shift totals for the top five teams last week, and the Pirates were #2 and the Rays were #4 in their shift usage.

Not surprisingly, these teams feature some of the most “surprising” pitching performances in the Majors this year. Bartolo Colon is amazing at age 40! Francisco Liriano is good again! A.J. Burnett is throwing like an ace! Where did Alex Cobb come from?!? Not to totally discount the quality of pitcher that these teams have collected, but sticking effective defenses behind decent pitchers has a tendency to make them look more than decent.

The Rays don’t fit quite as well as a comparison to the Pirates and A’s because their offense is better — their .328 wOBA ranks #3 in the majors — but they are built on a similar foundation. They’re the best of the teams in this mold, but the A’s and Pirates aren’t that far behind.

And yes, it is now time for the Pirates to be considered a serious threat in October. They might not have made any substantial upgrades at the deadline, and they still have a number of players performing over their heads, but this is a good baseball team, and one that has a relatively smooth path to postseason baseball.

With their surge and the Cardinals recent slump, Cool Standings now estimates that the Pirates have a 52% chance to win the division, and even if they don’t hang on to the NL Central title, they are extremely likely to snag one of the two wild card spots, earning a spot in the play-in game in 97.2% of the trials in which they didn’t win the division. They have a 10 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks, who currently hold the sixth best record in the NL. Teams have blown 10 game leads two month stretches before, but it’s not easy, and because the season started earlier and ends earlier this year, we’re actually a bit further into the season on August 1st than we are in most other years.

For the Diamondbacks to pass the Pirates and capture the final wild card spot, Arizona would have to outplay Pittsburgh by 200 points of winning percentage, which is about the difference between the Braves and Marlins thus far. If you expect the Pirates to begin to play like the worst team in baseball starting today, then the D’Backs just need to play like the best team in baseball in order to run them down.

Unlikely is being kind. The Pirates haven’t completely locked up a spot in the postseason yet, but they’re close to doing so. It would take a pretty epic collapse for their season to end on Game 162. Their fight now is to try and win the NL Central, because their performance in the first four months of the season has given them a significant cushion in the race for a wild card spot.

It’s time to stop expecting the Pirates to collapse. Their offense is solid, their pitching is pretty good, and their defense is terrific. This formula works.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Otter
Guest
Otter
2 years 9 months ago

I haven’t looked at the offense at all, so that’s really interesting. I did dive a little into the pitching side of things, and while I haven’t looked since the start of the second half, the Pirates are doing this with a great ground ball rate, low BABIP (agree probably related to their excellent defense*) and very high strand rate. As for BABIP, between 2009 and 2012, only the ‘11 Rays had a BABIP below .270, and only two other teams had a BABIP below .275 (full season). And that LOB% was two standard deviations beyond the mean (if I did my math right), so not sure that can continue either. Anyway, more here: http://lifeonabench.blogspot.com/2013/07/spreads-not-so-brief-second-half-preview.html

*I also believe this is why the Tigers BABIP is so high and was unlikely to regress until Tuesday’s trade. I’m much higher on the Tigers today than I was on Monday.

frivoflava29
Member
frivoflava29
2 years 9 months ago

Just about every single babip fluctuation we see over a season can, yeah, probably be attributed to great defense and ground ball pitching. The only thing that concerns me about this year’s Pirates is the high strand rate, but Hisashi Iwakuma doesn’t seem to have a huge problem with his LOB% in Seattle. Is strand rate really a matter of luck, in the same way that the Cards seem to be really lucky with guys in scoring position? Or is Iwakuma, for example, just above average when the pressure’s on? Peripheral stats can’t account for these things.

Climbing The Wall
Member
2 years 9 months ago

I’m not sure how “lucky” LOB% is. I think there’s a decent correlation between K% and LOB%. Just my opinion, but I consider BABIP to be more “lucky” than LOB%.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 9 months ago

You might throw substantially harder with two guys on, than with 2 out nobody on, I would think.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 9 months ago

Yet every time they lose 2 games in a row every yinzer (and sports reporter) in town screams to the heavens. The next time it happens it will be complaints about not upgrading at the deadline. Smizik already had a blog up today about regretting not making any moves come September. Its frustrating feeling that you have to defend every aspect of this club to 95% of the fanbase on a daily basis.

Paul
Guest
Paul
2 years 9 months ago

Don’t they do it to themselves though? I mean, who do we think was the source for the contradicted account of trying real hard to acquire Stanton? Some folks apparently are after Jack Z for not doing anything yesterday, but unless I haven’t seen it, he did not call up his favorite reporter and give a bogus account of burning up the phone lines trying to pick up a Bogaerts level prospect for one of his middle relievers.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 9 months ago

NH has gotten himself in trouble more than once by being so open with the media. I think it is necessary for him to do that in this market due to the years of distrust with management/ownership.

Roto Wizard
Member
Roto Wizard
2 years 9 months ago

95% is a gross overstatement. It’s really just an incredibly vocal minority. I’d put it at maybe 30%.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 9 months ago

No it is not, talk to people at PNC, talk to people anywhere in town. Most of the people at PNC barely know anything about the players on the team. I work with a broad cross section of Pittsburghers and transplants, I know a small handful of people who know what wOBA is or who Gregory Polanco is prior to the last month. Saying that 1 in 20 Pirate fans have an actual concept of sabermetrics and fully understand the game financially and developmentally is not an exaggeration. Now if you want to argue the definition of fan then sure its different.

maguro
Guest
maguro
2 years 9 months ago

That’s true of mainsteam fans everywhere, though. I work in an office full of The Best Fans In Baseball and none of them knows anything about wOBA or Oscar Taveras. Fangraphs readers are extreme outliers no matter where you reside.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
2 years 9 months ago

Yeah I agree, the few of us who frequent these sites or team specific blogs are an overwhelming minority. In Pittsburgh, the mindset is failure, deceit, and incompetence. The vast majority of fans do not dedicate any thought at all to differentiating the last 5 years from the previous 15. To them, its a hot streak and its the same old cheap Nutting and stupid Huntington.

bjs2025
Member
bjs2025
2 years 9 months ago

I can attest to this completely. I live in Altoona (2 hours away where the double A aphiliate resides) and they constantly ask “when will the 2nd half collapse begin?” They have no concept of sabermetrics, the reasons this team is better and the separation between them and the D’Backs.

I specifically remember local backwoods hick Altoona Mirror writer Cory Giger on our ESPN radio aphiliate before this season saying “Same old Pirates,” and not even having any clue what Huntington, et all were doing. He doesn’t know who Polanco, Hanson, Heredia or Bell is and refuses to actually look at any analysis. I guess that’s what you get when you live in an idiotic football town.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 9 months ago

I thought that was every fanbase.

philkid3
Guest
philkid3
2 years 9 months ago

What is a yinzer?

Sean
Guest
Sean
2 years 9 months ago

Somebody from Pittsburgh. Sometimes used derogatorily to mean “stupid somebody from Pittsburgh.”

It refers to the “Pittsburgh accent.” “Ya’ll” is replaced with “Yinz” (short for you ones). To be honest, these days, I probably see it written more than I hear it said in the city (Admittedly, I don’t live in the ‘Burgh, but my sister does and I spent every weekend there as a kid.)

Jaker
Guest
Jaker
2 years 9 months ago

How rare is it what the Yankees are doing? They have a wOBA differential of -0.016 and yet a 0.523 winning percentage. How much of that can we chalk up to luck?

rusty
Guest
rusty
2 years 9 months ago

And how much is The Will To Win??

Terrier1980
Member
Terrier1980
2 years 9 months ago

C’mon.

Everybody knows that it’s the pinstriped uniforms.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 9 months ago

They should be playing in cotton…

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

.611 win % vs teams under .500? Iunno. 18-12 in one run games (Rivera and the pen making them better once the game is to the 7th).

Yankees are also 20-13 against lefties. So maybe it’s a platoon thing.

JohnnyK
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Antonio, have you seen their RHH?

The record vs. LHP screams SSS, that’s all.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

Johnny, I’m not saying its at all sustainable, just saying those both stood out to me as “Yankees are below average most of the time but in these situations they are better” candidates.

jirish
Guest
jirish
2 years 9 months ago

I live just outside the St. Louis area and many fans and the local sportswriters are waiting for the Pirates collapse. They ain’t going to do it. Another team is going to have to collapse them if it’s done.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Every broadcast this series, stupid ass McLaughlin “is this when the pirates collapse? It was when they did last year”

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Seems to me the Cardinals are the team that’s collapsing this year. Here’s hoping the Bucs put a big nail in that birdcage shaped coffin tonight by sweeping the 5 game series. No Molina right now, Holiday being Holiday in the field, Craig regressing, Kozma-blackhole, Wainwright looking meh, bullpen nothing special. Cards fans make *the* best sadface evar!

abjohnson16
Member
abjohnson16
2 years 9 months ago

A 3.5 game lead with like 10 games left to be played between STL-PIT is hardly a nail in the coffin. But I guess I can’t blame every jealous Cubs, Royals, and Bucs fans for foaming at the mouth with a chance to eat it up while the Cards scuffle.

And based on your ‘argument’ I’d say you’ve seen exactly 4 Cards games this year. Keep up the good work!

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

nope. I’ve seen 9. All 9 against the Pirates. Cards have lost 7. That is all.

abjohnson16
Member
abjohnson16
2 years 9 months ago

Those are facts. And if you feel comfortable using that as your entire knowledge base in evaluating the likely performance of the Cardinals going forward then I’d say we are done here.

But just for shits and giggles I’d like to propose my own facts, in order.

Holliday fielding – below avg to avg at best, you were right about something!
Craig – 133 wRC+ [for reference McCutchen 140]
Kozma=Barmes=avg 8th spot NL hitter only earning his keep with defense
Wainwright – 2.61/2.29/2.67 ERA/FIP/xFIP, also known as better than ANY Pitt SP
Bullpen- Pitt is deeper but Rosenthal+Mujica = Grilli+Melancon, except my money is on Grilli not throwing another pitch

Good day to you.

mrosati
Guest
mrosati
2 years 9 months ago

I’m a huge Bucs fan, but to disparage Wainwright in anyway is kind of silly. He had one bad game, but he’s still one of the elite NL pitchers. Now, as to why we haven’t seen Mujica pitch against us this series…that’s a whole different argument…

Frank
Guest
Frank
2 years 9 months ago

Whoa Whoa Whoa…ABJ, Judging by your statement that Holliday is anything even resembling an “avg” fielder makes me question how many Cards games you’ve watched as well. And then claiming the back end of the Cards BP is equal to the Pirates pretty much kills all remaining credibility.

Good day to you as well sir.

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Aw come on, I just said “Wainwright looking meh”. I agree, he’s still very good but he didn’t look great this last game. Locke looked bad, too.

I also said Craig is regressing. I didn’t say he’s bad. He’s a prime regression candidate with those gaudy numbers, is all.

Kozma does = Barmes basically but we have Mercer, too, and he’s a better bat than both.

Rosenthal + Mujica *are* good but you’ve got to be winning games when you hand them the ball. Grilli will probably be back Sept 1. If he’s not, Vic Black has better stuff, Justin Wilson is as good as Rosenthal but LHP.

Honestly, what in the world is wrong with a 31 y.o. Pittsburgh Pirates fan “foaming at the mouth” a little? I was 11 when Bream slid home. If we’re being transparent here, I think both the Cards and Bucs are 90-92 win teams playing a little over their heads.

abjohnson16
Member
abjohnson16
2 years 9 months ago

Grilli 2.34/1.62/2.08 39%K 6.0%BB
Melancon 0.88/1.85/2.28 25% 3.6%

Mujica 2.01/2.93/3.03 22% 1.2%
Rosie 2.29/1.84/2.25 34% 5.2%

If you want to split hairs that Pitt is the Ferrari compared to the Cards Mercedes than that is fine. But I’ll take the side that does not have 1/2 at risk for being shut down for the season.

Historically Holliday has been an average defender. The problem is the nut shot in the NLDS vs LAD and this alley oop HR stick in everyone’s mind much more clearly. And I only gave him credit for being average ‘at best’. He is just as much a liability as Beltran or Choo but perception is everything.

abjohnson16
Member
abjohnson16
2 years 9 months ago

@Retirenutting

Here, here on the ~92ish win teams. Truthfully I want to root for the Bucs but I’d just much rather see them go on a tear vs anyone else. More accurately they are welcome to have the WC spot, I dont care to go through anymore coin flip play-in games.

stich09
Member
stich09
2 years 9 months ago

ABJ you make good points. Only problem about Holliday’s defense is that as pirates fans we see him play in PNC park in that HUGE left field.

We see him covering the most ground he ever has to cover and that makes it easy to point to him as a bad defender because of the blunders he makes when his range is pushed to its limits.

Ben
Guest
Ben
2 years 9 months ago

Retirenutting,

So what you’re saying is that since they have great numbers the following players are all good regression candidates?

McCutchen
Alvarez
Martin
Sanchez
Marte
Harrison
Locke
Burnett
Liriano
Grilli
Wilson
Melancon
Watson
Mazzaro
Gomez
Morris
Cumpton
Reid

(all the players with 115 or higher OPS+ and 115 or higher ERA+)

Adam
Member
Adam
2 years 9 months ago

A 3.5 game lead with like 10 games left to be played between STL-PIT is hardly a nail in the coffin. But I guess I can’t blame every jealous Cubs, Royals, and Bucs fans for foaming at the mouth with a chance to eat it up while the Cards scuffle.

Come on now. You’re selling the Cardinals short. Fans of every other team like to see them scuffle too.

Retirenutting
Guest
Retirenutting
2 years 9 months ago

I wish I could reply to Ben up there. Craig is due regression because his RISP #s are fucking absolutely out of this world crazy insane. There have been articles about that here and elsewhere. Sorry I wasn’t specific.

Wolf359
Guest
Wolf359
2 years 9 months ago

You see, this is why Cardinals’ fans are almost as despised as Yankee fans, overwhelming arrogance and extreme condescension.

Two of the teams mentioned have absolutely nothing to do with the article or the post he was replying to and yet that jerkoff reflexively and brainlessly threw in a gratuitous and idiotic slam.

I wish every St. Louis player would kill themselves like Daryl Kile had the good sense to …

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

I live in Missouri, and I can’t stand most cards fans. The whole “best fans in baseball, even cheer the opposition for a good play” is done. If you’re a cards fan under 35, you’re a fucking asshole because your team has been good most of your baseball watching life and you’ve been fellated and told you’re the best fans by your own broadcasters the whole time.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

And they bitch more than I hear other fans and assume other teams will too. In the Atlanta series, and entire pregame show and the first inning was dedicated to “how bad are these awful braves fans going to boo Kozma” then they hilariously let the crowd mics run and….nothing, nobody gave a shit about Kozma. It’s the commentators, IMO, that has caused the unbearable nature of modern cards fans.

abjohnson16
Member
abjohnson16
2 years 9 months ago

“Two of the teams mentioned have absolutely nothing to do with the article or the post he was replying to and yet that jerkoff reflexively and brainlessly threw in a gratuitous and idiotic slam.”

I mentioned those 3 teams because 1) this is a Bucs article and 2) the other 2 teams are the first to pile on when the Cards struggle being the whole rivalry thing and all. At the time of the reply I had no idea what team the original poster was a fan of so my bet was that it was one of the 3 mentioned.

As far as ‘condescension and arrogance’ is concerned if you look at it objectively. The Cardinals have had success over the last 20 years while their main vocal opposition (Royals/Cubs/and now dormant Bucs fan) has been comically bad. When the franchise vs franchise argument comes up NOT pointing to success vs udder and total failure is nearly impossible.

And for the record I HATE the ‘best fans in baseball’ title. I guess if it keeps at least a few people from acting like idiots towards other random baseball fans its not all bad but seems like a generalization for a group of people who just as mainstream and knowledgable as every other fan base (see the spot on discussion above).

And as far as the Daryle Kile comment, apparently you are lost and should be posting comments over at bleacher report where the rest of your ilk gather.

Frank
Guest
Frank
2 years 9 months ago

-12 Runs Saved, and in PNC’s left it’s borderline hilarious to watch.

Ben
Guest
Ben
2 years 9 months ago

It’s like bringing back Jason Bay defensively…?

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 9 months ago

As a Cards (and blue jays) fan, I am disgusted by the attitudes of my fellow ornithologists. If you go by what the comments on their facebook page say, we should fire our manager every time we lose a game, Albert Pujols never contributed anything to the Cardinals, Posey sucks, Matt Holliday should be benched, and David Freese is apparently cute.

jake
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Unfounded blanket statements fall back upon the author as indicative of a lesser quality of thought. This is magnified when the author promotes their own blog. To avoid the possibility of misconception with the point of these prior sentences: if you’re going to make laughably ignorant comments, you should do so anonymously.

As an aside: when discussing the performances of individuals, the proper spelling of a name is important. In this case, you’ve spelled Matt Holliday as Matt Holiday. It may appear pedantic to become absorbed with the missing of a single letter when it concerns a player that most or all of us know, but in this case it brings to mind an issue, which resolves in one of two:

One, you wrote this through memory. Being satisfied with memory in sabermetrics is apathy to accuracy, and a disregard of statistics in a statistics-based community calls great doubt upon your character. Two, that you did research the athletes, but at no point connected within your brain the proper spelling of “Holliday.” This would be understandable in someone solely interested in statistics and not especially concerned with literal correctness, but once again given that the target with which you promote yourself is that people read your blog, it more specifically calls doubt on your proficiency with the English language.

Long in short: You either don’t care about complete and easily reached accuracy, or you essentially brag about something you’re not especially skilled at.

Given my elaborations below, I would lean toward it being the former.

Molina’s intelligence and ability extends beyond the plate, he’s not on the field, but he’s in the dugout, and he’s watching everything. The home run has been the only poor play of note of Holliday this season, while he has many excellent catches. I wouldn’t praise his defensive ability, but he has not been a liability. The offense is not built around Kozma, and given a dearth of options to replace him defensively, his weak hitting is a worthy tradeoff.

Craig is the best in baseball at hitting with RISP, and he’s so far ahead of #2 that it would likely require him failing literally every opportunity over the rest of the season for him to be dethroned. So slapping a “regression” tag on him and calling it good is astoundingly ignorant. The recent article about his poor baserunning is another fine source of an inaccurate understanding of Craig, given that it discounts the third base coach, Jose Oquendo, as being extremely aggressive at sending runners. It’s further ignorant on the Cardinals’ playstyle, which is that during blowouts, the Cardinals deliberately play more recklessly such that they end the game more quickly. At least two of those outs at home came as they were rolling over a team.

Your comment about Wainwright is saved for last. The “nothing special bullpen” features the #1 GIDP producing pitcher in Seth Maness, the #2 reliever by NL fWAR in Trevor Rosenthal, and the #10 pitcher in WPA in Edward Mujica.

“Wainwright looking meh.” I could write an essay on these three words. It is truly amazing, given what you accomplished in saying so little. The weight of ignorance upon this line alone discredits literally everything in regards to your understanding of baseball. Literally everything. And yet, as an individual, it discredits you even more, because what it reveals about you. You had no issue saying it. Nothing in you, no part, no fragment, no errant thought asked yourself, “Am I really about to call Adam Wainwright, ‘meh’?” Adam Wainwright is the best pitcher in baseball.

I appreciate the Pirates team this year. The best thing that happens in baseball is what we’re seeing now- Pittsburgh, or other formerly weak teams, becoming the top teams in the league. It’s great for the sport, and something like a Pirates-A’s world series would be fantastic. But you do not justify ignorance because of exuberance, being a “frothing at the mouth” Pirates fan is no excuse for being fucking stupid.

Retirenutting
Guest
Retirenutting
2 years 9 months ago

Nothing in baseball could possibly justify how seriously you just took yourself in that rant. Congrats for some major self-image red flags.

Jer
Guest
Jer
2 years 9 months ago

You are really trying to jinx them with this article, aren’t you?

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I get that comment but would also ask you to consider whether numbers folks (fangraphs) would be apt to believe in jinxes — juuuuuust in case the question was not in jest.

MrKnowNothing
Guest
MrKnowNothing
2 years 9 months ago

Every baseball fan, deep down, believes in jinxes and curses and baseball gods. We may fancy it up, and talk about “regressing” and all those fancy nerd terms, but we all know the truth.

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Is that the Royal We? I’m a baseball fan and, deep down, I do not believe in jinxes. Belief in jinxes belongs to that same dusty-corner-category housing belief in Leprechauns, Pixie Dust, transcendental ritual, Bigfoot, and cordial internet comments sections. The game happens on the field. Sometimes the better team loses. Over large chunks of time, numbers are a good predictor and a good tool for evaluation of the past. Jinxes neither predict or explain — they don’t exist.

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 9 months ago

Hey retirenutting, we all know that, we’re on fangraphs. It can be more fun to treat this silly game like we did when we were kids sometimes, especially when we’re hoping and praying that our team can make the playoffs.

You’re allowed to have fun with the game sometimes, ya know.

Iron
Guest
Iron
2 years 9 months ago

The first five years of my life I was on easy street, pretty much nothing to do but play and goof around. Then my friend and I happened to say the same word at the same time and it’s all been downhill from there. Jinxes are real.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
2 years 9 months ago

Something I find interesting: The Orioles are #1 in shifts on that list and have been in general doing things like defying 1-run game odds last year (IDK about this year?) and winning a lot despite a 0.000 wOBA differential. Interesting.

Spencer D
Guest
Spencer D
2 years 9 months ago

I think Woba in their context might not have accurate weights.

Vin B
Guest
Vin B
2 years 9 months ago

Fun!

Quick correlation values:

wOBA diff to run diff: R^2 = 0.85

win % to run diff: R^2 = 0.85

wOBA diff to win %: R^2 = 0.75 !

Drew
Guest
Drew
2 years 9 months ago

My friend thinks Giancarlo Stanton will have a big second half because he just traded him.

Why did you trade him then, bro?

steex
Guest
steex
2 years 9 months ago

Then why did I have the bowl, Bart? Why did I have the bowl?

Joncarlos
Member
Joncarlos
2 years 9 months ago

It seems like upgrading from the Barajas/McKenry to Russell Martin improved their defense and pitching by approximately 4 bajillion runs. So that certainly helped.

Pedro Alvarez has taken a step forward defensively. They’ve started using the solid Gaby Sanchez as a defensive replacement for the not solid Garrett Jones at 1B. Starling Marte is an all-world LF. (He might be the best CF on the roster)

So most of the defensive gains are legitimate. I’m still not convinced the offense will stay good.

maguro
Guest
maguro
2 years 9 months ago

Well, the offense has never really been good. It’s averageish at best.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
2 years 9 months ago

To be fair, 4 bajillion is hyperbole. It was calculated out as only 2.171 bajillion runs through the first 105 games, which is still quite impressive (and would translate to 3.35 bajillion through a full 162-game season), but not quite 4 bajillion.

tom s.
Guest
tom s.
2 years 9 months ago

this ignores a lot of the pirates unsustainable success in run-prevention. the pirates do have good fielding, with the fifth best team UZR in the majors.

however, they have the biggest ERA-FIP split in the majors, with team ERA more than half a run below their team FIP. the royals, who have outstanding defense, see a much smaller ERA-FIP split. the pirates also have the lowest BABIP against in the majors, even though other teams have better defenses.

it is very unusual for a team to maintain a .269 BABIP against and a -.58 ERA-FIP split across a whole season. the 2009 mariners about did it, with a 9+ WAR defense and the second-most pitcher-friendly stadium in MLB (-.52 ERA-FIP split, .272 BABIP-against). the pirates are not such an extreme defensive-oriented team.

the pirates are legit, but they’re still likely to regress quite a bit in run prevention.

Robert G
Guest
Robert G
2 years 9 months ago

Well even if they regress to .500, they’re a 92-93 win team at this point

mrosati
Guest
mrosati
2 years 9 months ago

One thing FIP and xFIP might not be factoring in is the shifts and extreme groundball nature of this pitching staff. This actually has been discussed a lot on piratesprospects.com, which, BTW, is a great free website for not just Pirates fans, but some fantastic baseball breakdowns. Anyway….They’ve discussed quite a bit that, even though FIP and xFIP are much better indicators of a pitchers true success, they may not accurately reflect or predict what a pitcher will do, or regress to, when a team employs shifts in such a severe number as the Pirates do, and it also doesn’t give enough credit to pitching staffs that are as adept at getting GB as the Pirates are. So while some regression is possible, especially for Locke, maybe not as much as you might think….Also, like another poster said, they’re so far ahead, and the NL so weak after the Reds and Cards, that a wildcard is almost a layup at this point.

tom s.
Guest
tom s.
2 years 9 months ago

the pirates have a 43.8% GB rate as a staff. that’s 9th overall and right in the broad middle of all pitching staffs. they are not an extreme groundball staff.

Pitnick
Guest
Pitnick
2 years 9 months ago

Where are you getting that number from? Fangraphs leader boards show a 51.7% GB rate, first in the majors.

Also, even that number is being pulled down by Jonathan Sanchez, who is no longer on the team, and James McDonald, who certainly won’t pitch again this year, and Wandy Rodriguez, who probably won’t pitch again this year.

The current rotation is all over 50% GB rate: Morton, Burnett, Locke, Liriano and Cole

Paul
Guest
Paul
2 years 9 months ago

Despite the ERA-FIP gap, they are still 3rd and 4th in the NL in SIERA and xFIP, respectively. Those metrics don’t rely so heavily on BABIP outliers and have better predictive value. Plus, the ERA-FIP gap is smaller among the starters. Barring injury or something inexplicable, hey should have plenty enough wiggle room using the above-described formula to make the playoffs.

Devon
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I would LOVE to see the Pirates win the World Series after being sub-.500 for the previous two decades leading up to it. That would just be awesome for baseball.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
2 years 9 months ago

Getting them to the playoffs would be great for baseball. I think it would be great for baseball if they and the A’s or Rays played in the World Series but we would hen be subjected to a litany of articles and comments on he WWL about how boring a WS this is and how few people would watch it.

placidity
Guest
placidity
2 years 9 months ago

Also, people would forever hold this up as “proof” that the financial playing field is totally level/irrelevant.

wally
Guest
wally
2 years 9 months ago

And, in which case, even if the A’s won, people would still run down Billy Beane because the one WS title he does have, he beat the lowly, fluky Pirates in….

Brian Cashman
Guest
Brian Cashman
2 years 9 months ago

It’s totally irrelevant

NM
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Is there any chance we get team wOBA differential in the leaderboards? I know it’s simple to calculate if you’re looking up one particular team but it would be cool to have all 30 teams and be able to sort like the chart above.

dat cubfan daver
Member
2 years 9 months ago

As a Cubs fan, I can’t help but notice my team’s -.001 wOBA differential. Would this be another indication of an approximately .500 talent-level team (as run differential and Pythag. record have been indicating just about all season)? We’ve actually produced slightly (very slightly) more offense than the Pirates, who lead our division. But they’ve clearly been better at preventing offense.

stich09
Member
stich09
2 years 9 months ago

Yeah the Cubs are definitely under performing. Even seem to get “bad-lucked” when playing the buccos. They should be closer to .500 and almost every projection system has them playing the season out better than they have so far (although I haven’t checked since the departure of Garza and Soriano, two big departures).

Joe
Guest
Joe
2 years 9 months ago

Great article. I’m interested in the BIS link you posted. According to that, the Yankees have shifted the third most in the league this year, but they haven’t saved a single run from it. Are they just misusing the shift that terribly or do they have that bad of luck?

DNA+
Guest
DNA+
2 years 9 months ago

“They’ve regressed, technically.”

…technically, you have no idea if they have regressed, because you don’t know what their true talent level is. If they are actually a .700 club, they were even more unlucky in the second 52 games then they were in the first….

wally
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

I guess we’ll have to pause time and have every MLB team play each other 30 times (is that even enough?) to figure out the true talent. Once we do that, people can start writing articles for fangraphs again.

Not a Pirates fan, I'm afraid
Guest
Not a Pirates fan, I'm afraid
2 years 9 months ago

It’s weird to see people get so excited about being up a game or two in early August. Perhaps the Pirates are this era’s version of the Senators?

Pitnick
Guest
Pitnick
2 years 9 months ago

Yes, odd that baseball fans should get excited about an exciting young baseball team that has defied the prognosticators to claim the top record in the majors and represent by far the best chance for a shamed club to post a winning record and claim a playoff berth since 1992. Weird that.

Barry Bonds
Guest
Barry Bonds
2 years 9 months ago

Who was on that team?

Antonio Bananas
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

Should we consider strength of schedule? I believe St. Louis has 26 games left against teams currently at or above .500. Pittsburgh has around 17. That’s a pretty big difference at this point.

Retirenutting
Guest
2 years 9 months ago

That and the Cards record against .500+ teams so far this year, yeah. As of two days ago – 17-24 against teams above .500 and 62-43 against the rest of the league.

Matthew Cornwell
Guest
Matthew Cornwell
2 years 9 months ago

After this Reds series,mine Cards only plays 2 more series the rest of the year on the road vs. .500 teams. The Cards remaining schedule is very home-heavy, in fact.

But yeah, even with the Pirates’ defense, their pitchers will regress some. That BABIP is not all defense, and certainly hit luck too. Of course much ink has been spilled about the Cards BA w/RISP due to regress too.. One thing in the Card’s favor is that their HR/slugg% are way below their norms and should regress towards their true talent levels some too. I don’t know enough about the Pirate’s hitting to know if ” positive, regression should be expected.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

It’s not that home friendly. 55ish games left, 3 road series against teams above .500. That’s 15/55 games. And that’s me assuming they’re all 3 game series. On top of that, as of 2 days ago when I looked all this shit up, the cards had 32 home games left, reds had 31, pirates had 28, braves 30. The cards have by far a tougher schedule than PIT.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
2 years 9 months ago

Atlanta has 8 games in total against teams above .500. Cards have 32 home games left, so 23ish road, 15 vs teams at or above .500. So over half. In what resect were you thinking it was friendly?

Matthew Cornwell
Guest
Matthew Cornwell
2 years 9 months ago

First of all, I said “after the Reds series they only play two more series on the road vs. teams over .500. I said they had a home-heavy schedule after that point. 32 to 20 is pretty home-heavy. I never once said their overall schedule was friendly. I am adding info re: the s.o.s. by saying at least most of those games vs. teams over .500 were at home. I also said nothing about how their schedule compared to the other teams – only that we should not just look at the Cardinals S.o.s. remaining as the only factor of their schedule. It is a fact that their schedule is home-heavy.

Anyway, since the postseason is a crapshoot, I couldn’t give a flying hoot about what the Braves do. It is just nice to avoid the play-in game. So even if the Pirates have an easier SOS, the Cards having 5-7 more home games left could balance that out some. That was all I was saing.

Not sure where you are getting 15 games on the road vs. .500 teams. 5 vs the Reds, and 3 vs. the Pirates. That is road games vs. teams over .500 all year. I know the Pirates have more than that.

Change in Atmosphere
Guest
Change in Atmosphere
2 years 9 months ago

On a website of self proclaimed die hard Pirates fans, they still claim that the Pirates are winning in spite of Hurdle and Huntington. They give no credit to Huntington because he inherited Cutch, Marte and Walker and claim that he simply got lucky that the players he acquired are having “career years”. They slam Huntington’s drafting, the acquisitions of Burnett, Liriano, Martin, as well as Hurdle’s line-ups and in game management. Granted, 20 years of losing will wear even the most ardent fan down, but this is an example of how even the most passionate fans in the Burgh are clueless as to how this team is constructed and performing.In my opinion, Huntington has done a remarkable job in taking a wasteland of an organization in 2008 and turning into a contender and a top rated minor league prospect haven. Hurdle deserves equal credit for getting this team to believe and play like contenders after it failed down the stretch in the last two seasons. This organization is for real again, and sadly, the locals are the last in the country to appreciate or understand it.

jdbolick
Member
Member
2 years 9 months ago

Guess who’s regressing. So apparently the team BABIP allowed has gone from .277 before the All-Star break to .334 since then. I really doubt the defense credited for their first half performance has suddenly become terrible.

wpDiscuz