First Pitch: The Impact of Losing the Astros

Buster Olney has been doing his top ten lists at ESPN, naming his top rotations, infields, outfields, and so on. The Pirates haven’t been on any list, but I did see something interesting at the bottom of his infield article (Insider subscription required). Olney had a simulation from AccuScore showing the impact of the Houston Astros leaving the NL Central for the AL West.

In the simulation, AccuScore projected the standings with the 2012 alignment and the 2013 alignment. In the 2012 alignment, the Pirates were averaging 71.4 wins. In the 2013 alignment simulations, the Pirates were averaging 67.9 wins. Their chances of the playoffs in each case were next to nothing.

I used to work for AccuScore, providing these types of projections and translating them to outlets like ESPN, USA Today, Versus, Astros logoand Yahoo Sports. A few notes on the projections.

**AccuScore simulates the season 10,000 times for their projections. The win totals are the average from those simulations. The playoff odds display how many times the team made the playoffs in the 10,000 simulations. The Pirates had 0.1%, meaning they made the playoffs 10 times in 10,000 simulations.

**I worked on the NFL, NHL, and MLB simulations. We updated the rosters over the off-season, and did some custom simulations, but the focus on MLB usually came around Spring Training. The big draws now are the NFL playoffs and March Madness, with both tournaments usually having a simulation tool on ESPN. In the article, Stephen Oh notes that the formal win forecast is “still very subject to change”. I don’t know if the Pirates will be better or worse with the change. I do know that if they finish with around 68 wins, that should be it for this management group. I’d even say that should be it if they finish under .500 this year.

**The main point of the simulations was the impact of the Astros leaving the NL Central. The Pirates were losing an average of 3.5 wins with the move. I don’t think that would change, even with the formal simulations. The Astros are still a very bad team, and losing them from the division is going to result in fewer wins for everyone. The Pirates beat up on the Astros last year, going 12-5. They’ll play them this year in interleague play, but not 17 times. That’s going to hurt. In the long-term, the Astros leaving the Central might be a good thing. They acquired some interesting players in the last year, whether it was through trades that blew up their major league roster, or through the draft. If their rebuild works, it will be good to have them out of the NL Central. In 2013 they will still struggle, so the move will result in fewer wins for the Pirates.

What this means for Pittsburgh is that they’ll have to find a way to make up for those wins. Last year they won 79 games, and 12 of those were against the Astros. They have three games against the Astros this year, rather than 17. That means they’ll have to find a way to play .700 ball in those other 14 games, while doing that against tougher opponents.

Links and Notes

**The 2013 Prospect Guide is now available. Order your copy today!

**Winter Leagues Update: Playoff Schedule and Notes.

Author: Tim Williams

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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