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What Would Be a Successful 2011 Season?

What Would Be a Successful 2011 Season?

It’s been a funny season.  Coming in to the year, people expected 100 losses.  A 72-90 season would have been seen as a good step in the right direction.  If I would have been able to promise you a 75 win season this year, following a 105 loss season last year, the optimism for the future would have been pretty high.

I talked the other day about the many ends to the 2011 season.  Every time the Pirates have struggled this year, people have been quick to call the struggles the beginning of the end of the season.  There’s no doubt that the current struggles are the worst of the year.  The Pirates are 1-9 in their last ten games, including a seven game losing streak that took them from a 54-49 record, and 1.5 games out of first place, to a 54-56 record, and 7 games out of first.  Naturally, the first 100 games of the season, where the Pirates went 53-47, were the fluke.  The real team is the one that has gone 1-9.  End sarcasm.

I’ve talked about how people go the doom and gloom route when the team hits a bad spot.  What about the flip side?  We came in to the year expecting another horrible season, with 72-75 wins viewed as a strong improvement.  Somewhere along the way, we went from that, to thinking the season is a loss because the Pirates slipped to two games below .500 in early August.  There’s a reason for this.  Every time the team loses, people predict the end of the season.  However, every time the team goes on a nice run, people raise their expectations.

A lot of people are looking at the Pirates and their 1-9 stretch and saying “same old Pirates”.  The bandwagon just got a lot lighter, and people are embracing football season.  All over a ten game stretch, which is a pretty small sample size in a 110 game season.  But is that not the same thing that Pirates fans have done all season, good or bad?

What about the ten game stretch in early June, where the Pirates went 7-3, improving from 29-30 to 35-33?  That was enough for people to start questioning whether the Pirates could put up a winning season.

Or, how about the ten game stretch in early July, where they went 7-3, improving from 42-40 and three games out of first place, to 48-43 and being tied for first place?  Suddenly, the expectations were raises from “will they reach .500” to “will they win the NL Central?”

In each case, the Pirates went on a small hot streak, and fans adjusted their expectations.  After the June hot streak, a 72 win season was no longer good enough.  After the July hot streak, .500 was no longer good enough.  Ultimately the goal should always be contending, but considering the Pirates lost 105 games last year, what would be considered a success this year?

I had reservations about the Pirates during each of their hot streaks this season.  I pointed out how bad the offense had been, and that the pitching staff would regress.  I pointed out that they were just beating up on bad teams, and weren’t really beating good teams (although they took two of three against Philadelphia right after that, followed by two of three against Boston later in the month, but have since struggled against teams like St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Atlanta).  Just like my reservations with the hot streaks, I have reservations about making too much over a cold streak.

What would be a successful season for the Pirates?

These are the same old Pirates.  But not in the snarky “here we go with another year of the losing streak” way.  These Pirates that we’ve seen over the last ten games are the same old Pirates we’ve seen all year.  When they get hot, people start thinking playoffs.  When they get cold, people start thinking 90 losses.  However, this is a team that has hovered around .500 the entire year.  They’ve been five games below .500, and they’ve been seven games above .500, but for the most part they’ve revolved around the .500 mark.

Despite the doom and gloom after a seven game losing streak, and a 1-9 run, the Pirates are two games under .500.  The big difference is that, a month ago, being around .500 would put you in contention for the weak NL Central.  The Milwaukee Brewers have been on a hot streak, and are now leading the division while sitting 12 games above .500.  Even if the Pirates had swept the Cubs in their four game series, rather than being swept, they’d still be three games back in the division.

The Pirates might not be contenders for the division right now, but you could argue that they never really were contenders.  The reason they were contending last month was that four games above .500 put you a game out of first place, and five games above .500 put you in the lead in the NL Central.  There is now a clear leader in the division, and hovering on the positive side of .500 no longer is enough to put you in contention.  That doesn’t change the fact that the Pirates are still hovering around .500.

That brings me back to my question: what would be a successful season this year?  The Pirates have fallen out of contention, which has just as much to do with Milwaukee’s hot streak as it does with the Pirates’ losing streak.  However, they’re still two games below .500.  They were five games below .500 in mid-May, and one month later sat two games above .500.  Suggesting the team won’t contend might be valid, but suggesting they’ll go in a tailspin to 90 losses is making too much out of the current stretch.

The Pirates have hovered around .500 all year.  They’re looking like a .500 team, with the normal hot and cold stretches that a .500 team experiences.  Prior to the 2011 season, people would have been ecstatic if you said the team had a shot at .500 this year.  That’s not the ultimate goal, but considering the team had 105 losses in 2010, I’d say hovering around .500 all year so far in 2011 has to be considered a success.  Obviously it’s only a success if the team continues to hover around .500, but anyone suggesting less right now is probably making too much out of a ten game stretch, and ignoring the overall results after 110 games this year.

  • Anonymous

    Great blog post! It seems that when things were good for the Pirates this year, we the fans raised our expectations and wanted to see bigger and better things for this club. I’ll admit that as soon as the Pirates were near the top of the NL Central, I was hoping the Pirates could hang on for the rest of the year and make a run at the division title. The Pirates have made a tremendous step forward this season and I would say finishing .500 (or hopefully better!) would make 2011 a successful season.

  • Good summary here.  I entered this season predicting 84 wins based on last seasons end and an optimistic outlook.  Even if the Bucs could pull that off, I still never thought that would be good enough to contend, and I figured either the Brewers, Cards, or Reds would make a push (kinda wish it wasn’t the Brewers, though).  I still think the Pirates have a winning streak coming, maybe 7 to 9 games.  That still isn’t gonna make them contenders this year.  But contending next season ?  I think Yes !

  • Anonymous

    Great post – I would consider it a good year if they are at .500 or better.

  • Dee Bazz

    Big Bob Nutting just loves new technology.He recently purchased a refurbished Blackberry Pearl 8130 from an online used cellular site.A friend of his explained that you can now do conference calls from cell phones, as opposed to what a free-lance electrician had set up for him in the offices of PNC Park a couple of years ago.Nutting: Damn!….I’m gonna make a conference call with Neal & Coonelly right from the comfort of my home here in Wheeling!….And I don’t have to criss-cross any wires.(Nutting pulled out the “how to do” directions that were written on the back of a recent Eat ‘n Park receipt, and started dialing up his Regime cohorts)Nutting: Neal……You there?Huntington: Yes bossNutting: Coonelly……You there?Coonelly: Gentleman….Bon Soir!…..From the city of lights better known as Paris, France. I was just taking a seat at my favorite bistro in the Latin Quarter.Care to join me?…..HaHa!Nutting: Damn Coonelly….You’re a real jet set guy!Coonelly: Well boss….I’ve learned that I can handle my business AND continue my salsa dancing hobby events at the same time…In-ter-national style!Nutting: Well, you’ve sure been doin’ a good job comrade. They’re packin’ em  in over at PNC Park nightly.On top of it ….We haven’t had to do doodley! We still got the lowest damn payroll in all of Major League Baseball.I just want to take this golden opportunity to thank you both. We’ve shown all the critics they can wear egg on their faces that don’t come off.Coonelly: No problemo boss….It’s always my pleasure.Nutting: You know….The thing that tickles my innards the most is the fact that JR is finally gettin’ some recognition for the manager he is. Ain’t that great?Huntington: Ummm…..Don’t you remember boss? We fired JR after last season and hired Clint Hurdle.Nutting: Ohhhh…haha!…….I forgot all about that. When I went to see the team take their at bats in San Diego a couple months ago, I thought JR had just gained himself some weight.I guess that was that Hurdle guy…..Wow.Anyway…Moving on…..You know Neal, you had me a little bit scared when we were in 1st place a couple weeks ago.I started hearing we’re gonna add all these high priced players. But I knew better!Huntington: Not on my watch boss. Coonelly laid the groundwork way back in May with his classic, big time lawyer fluff….”We’re not going to mortgage the future.”Our base fell for it like DB Cooper without a parachute.Nutting: Coonelly….You never cease to amaze me.Coonelly: Not a problem boss. You know….Every once in awhile I have to step in and keep a tavern in line, or come up with a statement regarding a game I didn’t even attend. It’s all part of the job of being El Presidente.Nutting: Sure …. Sure. Now Neal….I can’t help but to think this season is gonna buy us time to sell off some of these guys comin’ up to towards that dreaded $5 mil a year mark.I know Major League Baseball has no salary cap…..But I have the Nutting cap!Huntington: Consider it covered boss. We’ll dump at least Maholm, Correira & Doumit for prospects. Maybe even Hanrahan and Karstens. By next July…..I’ll start sending out feelers around the league on Cutch.Maybe we’ll sign him and trade him…..Just like we did with McLouth.We’ve already got the built in excuse that Starling Marte…..Who’s over in Altoona…..Couldn’t be held back by anyone anymore.Coonelly: Ahhhhh……That’s always a good one Neal. It worked before, so it’ll work again.Nutting: Anyway….I’m happier than a pig in a poke with an ear of corn. I believe that’s about it for me comrades.Coonelly: Great!…..Just in time as my souffle and bottle of sparking Le Duc is arriving as we speak.Nutting: Now before we hang up…..I want you all to join in on our secret motto…..I’m gonna say “Let’s keep doing things our way for Pirate fans”…..And you guys chime in with the motto.Sorta like those NFL teams do every Sunday before the game.Ok?Huntington & Coonelly: Ok boss.Nutting: Ok, here goes……”Comrades….Let’s keep doing things OUR way for Pirate fans”Nutting/Huntington/Coonelly: In your face!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!By Daquido Bazzini

    • Anonymous

      Wow man.  This is unbelievable… unbelievably stupid and naive. Absolutely amazing.

  • Anonymous

    At this point one more win would be a successful season

  • David Lewis

    The NFL locked out the players before the beginning of the MLB season, and the Pirates went 52-47 and were tied for first place in the NL Central.  The NFL lockout ended on July 25.  The Pirates then proceeded to lose 10 out of their next 11 games, falling 8 games out of first.

    Clearly, the resumption of football is the reason for the Pirates’ slide; because the NFL CBA is signed for 10 years, the Pirates won’t contend until 2021.

  • Barbara Swanson

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Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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