August 1, 2013

The Pirates are Rolling

The Pittsburgh Pirates right now are rolling. They've beaten the St. Louis Cardinals in four straight games and can go for the rare five-game sweep tonight. The Pirates also have the best record in baseball (even better than the Rays and A's) and are now 2.5 games up on the Cardinals who just placed Yadier Molina on the disabled list. If this isn't the Pirates year to finally make the playoffs then I don't know who's year it is?

And yet there is doubt. The Pirates didn't make any deadline deals and their starting rotation has a rookie, Jeff Locke, and AJ Burnett in their rotation. Their lineup doesn't really look that good, does it? Besides Andrew McCutchen there isn't a whole lot there to put fear in anyone. So what are the pros and cons for this team going forward?

- According Fangraphs team pitching WAR, the Pirates are in the middle of the pack in terms of pitching*.

*I gotta admit I'm starting to lose faith in WAR. I believe there's too much that goes into computing that stat.

- The Rotation consists of: Francisco Liriano, AJ Burnett, Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Jeanmar Gomez, Brandon Cumpton, and an injured Wandy Rodriguez.

- The pitchers give up too many walks per 9 innings.

- The Pirates hitters aren't exactly on-base machines.

- The Pirates have to platoon at first because Gabby Sanchez can't hit right-handers anymore.

- The Pirates are starting a combination of Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmas at shortstop.

- Pedro Alvarez strikes out too much and doesn't get on base.

- The Pirates pitchers as a team though have a great xFIP which in the long term is more important than team WAR.

- The Pirates have gotten a rejuvenated Liriano and a career year out of Jeff Locke. Gerrit Cole is suppose to be good and AJ Burnett is good when healthy and not pissing off his teammates.

- The Pirates pitchers strand a lot of base runners.

- The Pirates are right where they want to be in terms of BABIP. So they're not just getting lucky with bloop hits and base hits than turn into doubles because they snuck past the first or third baseman.

- When Gabby Sanchez does play he's actually very productive so the platoon works.

- Hey at least none of those shortstops are named Brandon Inge or John McDonald.

- Pedro Alvarez hits a lot of home runs.

- The Pirates have a good, deep bullpen which is important in the playoffs.

- The Pirates also have Andrew McCutchen who is just one of the best players in the game and is without a doubt the Pirates best player this season.

So yeah the Pirates have their flaws but those flaws are contradicted by their positives example being their pitchers walking too many batters and yet stranding those batters on base. I'm still a little worried about their lineup but for right now it's working. It will be interesting to see though how well someone like Sterling Marte does next season when his stats are inflated by BABIP. Right now though the Pirates don't have to worry about next year and continue looking forward to this season and a possible playoff spot. And to top everything off the Pirates have one of the better farm systems in the league.


  1. Of all the seemingly obnoxious Sabermetric statistics, WAR might be the worst, IMO. To quote Abe Simpson, "I get 30 hogsheads to the rod, and that's the way I likes it!"

    1. And for whatever reason, that's the stat that analytic writers have pinned all their hopes/arguments/etc on. And there's no doubt that it's a flawed stat that shouldn't be used for MVP arguments because Mike Trout has the best WAR again.