Little and Late: Mets 6, Pirates 4

06.17.16 Posted by

One of the more disheartening things about the Pirates’ losses recently is how they feel over so quickly. A few times I’ve turned the game on an inning or two late, and nearly every time it seems like the Bucs are already losing by a few runs. Often they’ll scrape back into the game, like they did last night by scoring four runs in the final two innings, but that’s not going to get it down when you spot the other team a 6-0 lead.

There’s not much to analyze here: Nicassio gave up six runs in 4.1 innings largely because he allowed three home runs. The Bucs didn’t do anything against Colon until the 7th, and that’s the more disconcerting part, as this vaunted offense has been…well, whatever the opposite of vaunted is over the last few weeks. The Pirates’ team OPS was .826 in April, .755 in May, and it’s .655 so far in June. In terms of National League ranks, that’s 3rd, 6th, and now 14th. They have the second worst team OPS in June.

A lot of things about this team make me think a second half run is possible…maybe even likely. It’s easy to imagine things going a lot smoother if and when Nicassio moves to the bullpen (and adapts to it reasonably well), Liriano improves (I still think he’ll be better, if not good), and Cole and Taillon eating up half of the remaining starts. The offense is probably closer to the lineup we saw in April and May than June, too. But given the way they’re playing right now (they’re at exactly .500 right now), and how tough the upcoming schedule is, it seems like a second-half surge is going to be necessary just to earn the right to make it to a fourth consecutive Three Hour Coin Flip.

What’s that they say? You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?

Filed under: everything is terrible, game recaps, Juan Nicasio

In Different Leagues: Cubs 6, Pirates 2

05.05.16 Posted by

In yesterday’s preview, I wrote this:

Coming into this series it was reasonable to wonder if the Bucs were on the same level as the Cubs. Now, I think we have to retreat to asking if they will be when the last few pieces are added.

That’s pretty much where I’m at now. The Pirates, as currently constituted, are probably not one of the game’s very best teams, and are certainly not in the same league as the Cubs (though it’s possible nobody has been).

Doesn’t mean we can’t be. Doesn’t mean we won’t be. Just means we aren’t.

This score, like the 7-2 score in the first game, makes the game look more lopsided than it was: the Pirates got 8 hits off of Jen Lester, who didn’t even complete the sixth, but they also loaded the bases with nobody out and failed to score. While it’s been clear from this series that the Cubs are the better team, the Pirates have also made the gap look wider than it is by failing to cash in on virtually every opportunity, while simultaneously finding new and creative ways to allow the inverse to happen with the Cubs at the plate.

The Bucs are 15-13. That hot streak gave them enough margin that they’re still at an 87-win pace (IE: right around what you’ll usually need for one of the Wild Card spots) even after getting swept. The Bucs may have another big division hole dug already, but in terms of wins and losses this team has started better than each of the last two years. Let’s just hope those additional pieces are here soon, and fit.

Filed under: everything is terrible, game recaps, Juan Nicasio

The Pirates: Spleen of Pittsburgh

05.05.14 Posted by

The melancholies are ubiquitous; it is the winter of our discontent; fielding errors and clutchless hitsmanship have cast a pall over all of us.

The Pirates cannot hit, except in the rare occasions that they do; equally, the Pirates cannot pitch, barring some blips on the radar. Everything is terrible.

Only three teams have accrued fewer than the Pirates’ 12 wins: the woebegone Astros, the Cubs (a franchise mired in a deep, 106 year rebuild), and the Arizona Diamondbacks, a vehicle currently being driven off of a cliff and straight to hell by one Kevin Towers, a veritable knucklehead.

Are things really that bad?

The short answer is, unsurprisingly: No.

A quick inspection of MLB team data reveals the following things:
-The Pirates have scored 118 runs to date, good for 24th overall in baseball. However, that sounds misleadingly bad. The average NL team has scored 125 runs, so the Pirates are not as inept as one might think initially. Comparison of the Pirate’s triple slash (.234/.312/.365) to that of the average NL club (.247/.312/.388) reveals only negligible differences.
-The pitching staff currently ranks 16th in baseball in earned run average with a 3.91 figure. The average NL club has logged a 3.54 ERA. This fact is certainly more alarming than the offense’s figures, as the 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates were expected, by some, to be a pitching/defensive team with an average, or slightly below-average, lineup. To date, only the bad half of that bargain is being held up.
-The Pirates, through 31 games boast a -15 run differential, a figure that would suggest a 14-17 record, rather than an 12-19 mark. If you consider that the Pirates have opened the year with a tough stretch of, mostly, divisional opponents, a 14-17 record doesn’t seem so bad for what figures to be an average baseball club.

And that’s just it: The Pirates are an average baseball club. The Pirates are an average baseball club. They are basically an average-hitting club and an average-pitching club. Their ranks will change over the course of the season, but those two truths will still remain. The issue here isn’t that the Pirates are bad, it is that they are average. A reality that seems just as unjust as them being awful.

I have heard many people contend that the Pirates dropped the ball by not making a big splash in free agency, that their window for success is closing, and breaking the streak in 2013 and making the playoffs was the springboard they needed to make a deep run in 2014. None of those things are true, really. The window is still opening and it will remain open for a long time. Well-managed teams always seem to “get lucky” in that way. With the Pirates waiting for Polanco’s arrival and going through transitions with the pitching staff, 2014 figured to be a “down year.” I stand by that. However, “down” here means that they are an 80-something win team and only measured against 2013′s success does that suggest failure. They are not going to lose 100 games. Get a hold of yourselves.

Filed under: everything is terrible, hitsmanship, hyperbole theater, panic button

Pirates Lose Again, a Phrase I’ve Copied onto My Clipboard

04.25.14 Posted by

There’s not a ton to say: the Pirates are losing a lot of games, but a lot of them are close and involve blown leads, and just generally feel flukey. If you’re the kind of person who thinks that those are the types of games that Good Teams Win, then you’re probably freaking out right now. But even if you’re the kind of person–like me–who thinks that’s hokum, you’re still pretty down, because the talent level of this team is probably in the mid-80-win range, which means a playoff run probably is/was contingent on winning a decent number of those.

The good news is that a lot of this is fixable. The first few weeks inevitably involve sorting out what you’ve got; after that, good teams make the necessary adjustments. Wandy as we’ve known him isn’t going to keep losing us games, because he’s either a) going to pitch better after his return from injury or b) not be allowed to pitch as much. Ditto for Grilli, who’s either going to look more like his old self, or be used in lower-leverage situations. Those losses are locked in, to be sure, but the things that led to them are not.

When you lose close and/or flukey games, you don’t usually need to blow the team up to start winning them. It’s entirely possible that using Cumpton over Wandy and Melancon over Grilli, and just regressing to the mean in terms of luck, is enough to start splitting those types of random games.

We’ll have to sort all this out on the fly, though, because the schedule isn’t letting up yet: the Pirates play the Cardinals tonight, Cole vs. Miller. Cole’s looked more like his initially-called-up-self than his unhittable-throughout-September-self, which is to say: good, not great. Tonight would be a good time to change that.

First pitch is at 8:15.

Filed under: everybody freak out, everything is terrible, Lion's Roar Times a Billion

Thank Goodness the Pirates Play Again Today

04.14.14 Posted by

One of the nicest things about baseball, to me, is how relentless it is. Over a six-month period there’s about a 90% chance your team has a game on any given day. It’s a marathon, and that’s a nice change of pace from other sports (especially football), where each game is a big deal and there are often sizable gaps from one to the next. That means the tough losses have a long time to fester.

Lots of teams have the day off today, but thankfully, the Pirates aren’t one of them. I say thankfully not just because Pirates baseball is generally enjoyable, but because when your team’s just been swept, the only way to feel better about it is for them to keep playing and win. I’m glad we don’t have an entire day to stew in the Milwaukee series, and talk about how easily we could have taken any of the three games, or about how we played them better than most of the teams they’ve been steamrolling in the early going.

That’s all true, and the outcome really shouldn’t be especially discouraging given the way it happened. But it will be anyway, so it’s just as well we don’t have to tell ourselves those things for too long.

But remember, kids: individual series’ are artificial constructs based around travel constraints and the linear nature of time, not windows into the team’s collective soul.

First pitch is tonight at 7:05 PM.

Filed under: everybody calm down, everything is terrible, frustration mounting

Game 154 Recap: A Series of Unfortunate Events

09.21.13 Posted by

You hate to be in the position of registering this sort of complaint, but the Pirates lost last night in excruciating, improbable fashion. Whereas the other night it seemed like Mark Melancon blew a save because didn’t pitch particularly well, last night he was just dinked to death as ball after ball found a hole, or ricocheted off someone’s glove in just the right way. But then, when your closer’s having one of the better relief seasons in recent history, the odds are good that, when someone does get to them, it’s going to be with flimsy stuff like this.


It was an especially tough loss because at the time the Cards were trailing (they went on to win) and it looked exceedingly likely that we were about to pull into a tie for the division lead, just two games after being two back. Instead, the division is all but gone and we’re virtually assured of having to play a coin flip game for the right to enter the division round, and it’s almost definitely going to be against these Reds.

That, in itself, isn’t too shocking. Most of us have assumed for the last two months that this would be what would happen, and if we managed to improbably wrestle the division from the Cardinals, all the better. What’s more disconcerting is that we’re no longer in the driver’s seat in determining where that one game will be played, and given that we’re 19 games over .500 at PNC Park and only 3 games over on the road, this is no small detail.

Obviously, this season is a success. And I think we’ll all feel pretty great about it if the Bucs make it to the division round and things end there (though that might change in the heat of the moment). But given the positions we’ve been in throughout the year, it would be hard to regard a loss in the Wild Card game as less than disappointing…especially if that game takes place in Cincinnati, depriving the fans of even a pseudo playoff game here in the ‘Burgh.

Filed under: everything is terrible, Mark Melancon, Playoffs (I can't believe I get to use this tag)


07.10.13 Posted by

Okay, not really. But we’re definitely in one of the season’s valleys: four straight losses, two of them to the lowly Cubs, and 2-5 in our last seven. Not great.


The only real concern is that this continues for the next few days and we end up fussing and worrying over the entire All-Star break. And then we come out of the break with seven road games against Cincinnati and Washington.

Okay, so the offense hasn’t picked it up. But the pitching’s still great, and I think it’s just as likely, if not moreso, that we hit a bit better before we pitch much worse. The problem of late hasn’t generally been hitting, but sequencing: we’re leaving a lot of men on base. That’s not great, but despite what some people think, that’s not really a skill (or lack of skill). I’d rather be putting guys on and not driving them in, long-term, than stringing together implausible sequences but scoring a few more runs in the short term. Not that I like having to choose.

Filed under: everybody calm down, everything is terrible, panic button


04.30.13 Posted by

The Pirates scored 8 runs and lost badly enough that it wasn’t even a save situation for Milwaukee.  Jared Hughes was the only Pirates pitcher that wasn’t scored on tonight.  Every Milwaukee starter had a hit and only Aoki, Braun, and Estrada failed to collect RBIs. JMac was horrid.

The offense did its part, though.  Cutch came alive and racked up four hits, including his third homer of the year.  Marte, Gaby, and RussMart also homered in this game.  RussMart also threw out 2 of 4 base stealers, so there’s that.

If only anybody on this team could pitch . . .

Filed under: crippling depression, everything is terrible