So, we are 74 games through the season and the Pirates are sitting at a comfortable 37-37 record. You might ask, “Cory, how can you say that being .500 is comfortable?” That would be a great question, one you probably know I agree with as I don’t fall into line with the being happy to win as many games as you lose, but lets not fluff at the accomplishment that the Pirates have done this season.
Through 74 games this season they have an even 37-37 record. After game 74 last season the Pirates were sitting at an abysmal 25-49 mark in the midst of a 2-18 run that would finish them before the halfway mark of the season. You hear everyone talk about how this year they are a different team and I think just from that stat alone you can make that statement. This year the Pirates ended a rough four game losing streak in the middle of interleague play and won two straight against an American League team. Last season the Pirates dropped three straight games to the Tigers and then lost the first of a three game set to Chicago. Sound familiar? This season the Pirates dropped that initial game to the Orioles this year after dropping three to Cleveland. Last season they dropped the next two games with the Sox and this year they won the next two games against the Orioles. Small sample size? Sure. But 12 more in the win column doesn’t lie, this has been a much better team.
A lot has been made about how the Pirates are beating up on the sub .500 teams and getting worked by the better teams in the league. I wanted to take a quick look at how the Pirates were doing this year against a couple of tiers of teams and how they stack up against those same teams from a year ago.
I will look at how the Pirates stacked up against teams that are more than five games below .500, which for much of the year are teams that the Pirates should beat, teams that are +/- four, which are around where the Pirates have been for much of the year and then teams that are five or more games above .500 which will represent teams that are better than the Pirates.
Let’s have at it:
Five or more games below .500
Padres (32-44) – 2-1
Dodgers (34-42) – 1-2
Orioles (33-39) – 2-1
Astros (28-48) – 5-1
Cubs (30-44) – 4-2
Marlins (33-42) – 0-3
Total – 14-10
Five or more games above .500
Cardinals (40-35) – 2-1
Brewers (41-35) – 0-5
Tigers (40-35) – 2-1
Braves (43-33) – 0-2
Phillies (47-28) – 2-1
Indians (40-33) – 0-3
Diamondbacks (41-34) – 2-1
Giants (40-34) – 1-2
Total – 9-16
Teams like the Pirates
Rockies (37-37) – 3-4
Reds (39-37) – 5-1
Nationals (37-37) – 2-2
Mets (36-38) – 4-4
Total – 14-11
vs. NL Central: 16-10
vs. NL East: 8-12
vs. NL West: 9-10
vs. Interleague: 4-5
So what does all this tell us about the Pirates? In the grand scheme of things probably not a whole lot but I am bored tonight with no Pirates and there will be nothing going on tomorrow because it is a scheduled off day for the entire team, and not just for Ronny Cedeno or Matt Diaz.
Back to it. The common theme of the season was that the Pirates were able to beat the celler dwellers of the league and struggled mightily against the top tier teams. When you look at the breakdown of wins and losses above you can pretty much see that it rings true to that. The Pirates winning percentage of .360 against the teams that are at least five games above .500. That .360 winning percentage against those teams is just a tick better than the Pirates overall record in 2010. Most would say that is not successful.
Although the Pirates have not faired well against the top level teams there are some things to be taken away from this. One is that the Pirates are 0-5 against the Brewers. I would not bring this up if this was a rare occasion, but it is not. The Brewers own the Pirates and there is nothing around there. If you take the Brewers out of the equation the Pirates are 9-11 against those top tier teams. I know it is easy to just grab one team and throw them out of the equation, but you get my point. To say that the Pirates are almost .500 against the other seven top tier teams is saying something. Sure the Pirates can’t beat the Brewers but they can, and have, beat the Phillies, Tigers and Diamondbacks more than they have lost to them this year. Overall I think one glance at the number will make you play into the stigma that the Pirates are bad against good teams but I don't think it is as bad as anyone might make you think.
Any team that you cheer for or belong to is going to have teams that they should beat on any given day of the year. I have categorized these teams as teams that are five or more games under .500. If you figure you beat the teams you are supposed to and then split some games against teams that are a toss up then you are going to have a pretty good team. So far this season the Pirates are 14-10 against those teams that they should be beating and they have only have a losing record against two of the six teams they have played. Not too bad. You would probably like to see the Pirates have a few more wins against these types of team, but after last season I guess you take what you can get.
The third category is the teams that are like the Pirates. These teams I put into a category that are either four games above or below the .500 mark. The Pirates have fluctuated up and down from those marks for much of the season so it seemed pretty logical for that to be the set for this. I am not quite sure how to qualify this because playing teams similar to yourself (record wise) should get you about even with all things considered. That is pretty much what the Pirates have been. They are 14-11 against those teams which sounds like they are fairing pretty well against said teams. The Bucs played .500 ball against the Mets and Nationals while completely dominating division foe Cincinnati, winning five of six games. The Pirates only have one losing record, 3-4 against the Rockies, among the four teams that are “like” the Pirates.
The last tidbit that I looked at was how the Pirates have fared against the three divisions in the National League. As you can see above the Pirates have actually dominated the NL Central. With a 16-10 mark the Pirates have been beating the teams that they will play. What makes this record even more remarkable is that the Pirates are 0-5 against the Brewers. So the Bucs are 16-5 against the Cubs, Astros, Cardinals and Reds. Not too shabby. Like I said they will be playing these teams more than any other team so being able to win a vast majority of these games is a must.
While they are dominating the NL Central they are just below average against the other two divisions. The Bucs are only 8-12 against the NL East. What hurts the most is being 0-3 against the Marlins who are in one of the worst losing streaks of the season, and they are winless against the Braves, one of the better teams in the East. The Bucs are just about even against the NL West, so there isn’t much to talk about here seeing as they are an even 3-3, combined, against the top teams (Giants, Diamondbacks).
What might be the most surprising is that the Pirates are damn near .500 in interleague play at 4-5. Most people wouldn’t think that the Pirates have been successful because they had that rough stretch against Cleveland and the first game against Baltimore but most have already forgotten the series win against the Detroit Tigers who are only one game behind Cleveland in the AL Central. For as bad as the Pirates have been in interleague play (2-13 in 2010) this is an instant improvement that has been looked over.
As I close this out I got a nice tweet from James Santelli who said that the Pirates are 13-8-3 in series this year (excluding the one game stint with the Nationals where the second game got rained out).
While the Pirates might only be even at 37-37 there is nobody that can really deny the progress that has been made. They have won five more series than they have lost and outside of the Brewers they are faring pretty well against some of the top competition that baseball has to offer while having a better record against teams they are on the same level at and worse. This is obviously small sample sizes and we will have to look at this at the end of the season to make final determinations on this team, but it is a nice first step for a team that was the worst in baseball last season.
Well, what do you think? Does this mean much? Agree? Disagree? Leave it in the comments.