Monday, June 2, 2008

The Underrated Pittsburgh Pirates

One look at the Pirates' last-place standing in the NL Central, trailing the Cubs by 9.5 games, and their four-games-under-.500 record, it's easy to dismiss this team. FOX notes that the Pirates are getting "nowhere near the seasons they expected from Ian Snell and Tom Gorzelanny" and various media rankings place Pittsburgh in the middle third of ballclubs at the very best:

AOL: 21st overall
CBS: 19th
ESPN: 23rd
FOX: 23rd

It's true that the Pirates have a quality win percentage that's about 20th in Major League Baseball. But the national sportswriters failed to notice that Pittsburgh has played the hardest schedule in baseball to date: membership in the NL Central means taking on teams currently ranked #1, #10, #14, #15, and #16 overall. Over the past half-month, the Pirates have won series against the Cubs (#1 in baseball) , St. Louis (#14), and Atlanta (#8) while barely losing a rubber match against the Cubs again on May 18th.

Baseball Playoffs Now recommends the Pirates...cautiously. They rate fairly high on our Watch List, as their playoff rating (wins against schedule) is high and Pittsburgh has been the 11th-best ballclub over the past 10 games. But the Pirates' scoring capacity is suspect: for every 1 run allowed to score, Pittsburgh only scores 0.921 runs themselves (23rd in the majors). Because of their current inability to match opponents run for run, we place the Pirates' final record at 23rd-best (75 wins).

Baseball Playoffs Now's prediction algorithms places Pittsburgh's ranking alongside that of major networks: around 22nd in baseball. Yet when we create power rankings, it's important to note the path that teams took to get to today. The Pirates have nothing to be ashamed of, and we pencil them in at 13th overall.

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