Tonight’s blowout victory by the Pittsburgh Pirates over the St. Louis Cardinals was just one game, and shouldn’t be taken as anything more than just one game. But I did think that the game tonight was ironic, considering the off-season narratives for the two teams.
On one side, you had the Cardinals, who got a lot of praise (myself included) for upgrading their defense on paper over the off-season. They added Peter Bourjos in center field, added Jhonny Peralta at shortstop, and moved players around to positions where they have had more success, such as Matt Carpenter moving from second base to third base. The Cardinals already had a good offense and a good pitching staff. Their biggest weakness last year was their defense, and it was easy to think that upgrading the defense would pretty much ensure that they’d return to being one of the best teams in the NL, if not the best team in the NL.
On the other side, you had the Pirates, who did very little over the off-season. They lost A.J. Burnett, and had holes at first base and right field. They went with the “wait for Gregory Polanco” approach in right, and didn’t make a splash at first base. The end result is that you had a similar team to the 2013 season — good pitching, good defense, and an offense that is often inconsistent, leading to a lot of stretches where the Pirates are forced to rely heavily on their pitching and defense to keep the score low enough to win.
And then tonight, the Pirates offense exploded, while the Cardinals didn’t have the best game defensively. I don’t think this changes the off-season narratives for either team. I like the Cardinals’ defense better this year, and I think there are some legit concerns with the offense for the Pirates. However, off-season narratives have a funny way of getting blown out of proportion due to the length of the off-season.
When you think about the off-season, there’s very little to talk about, and a lot of time to talk about it. This means you’ll end up rehashing the same 2-3 topics over and over again for six months from the end of one season to the start of the following season. And if a situation doesn’t change, then somehow the team gets worse as the off-season goes along. Don’t add a player in November? People get concerned. Don’t add a player by December? The concern grows. Don’t add a player by Spring Training? Start talking about how the team can’t win without addressing this position. On the flip side, you could have a situation like the Cardinals, where you address a key area, and the constant talk about that addition leads to increased optimism about the team.
Then the regular season starts and perspective kicks in. A win like the win tonight shouldn’t be extrapolated into some grand conclusion where the Pirates are a better team than the Cardinals, and all of their offensive problems are solved. But it does serve as a reminder. It reminds us that even the best teams in the league still lose 40% of the time. It reminds us that the Pirates held their own against the Cardinals last year, going 10-9 in the regular season, and taking them to game five of the best of five NLDS. It reminds us that, even though they’ve got some holes that weren’t addressed over the off-season, the Pirates have a lot of good players on this team, and a lot of reasons who they were contenders last year.
So should you draw conclusions from one game? Absolutely not. But if you can perpetuate the same theory over and over during the off-season, then I don’t see why you can’t ask what one game might be proving, all while using that one game as a small portion of analysis on the team — analysis which is much stronger than the guessing games done over the off-season.
Links and Notes
**The 2014 Prospect Guide is in stock on the products page of the site. The book features profiles, scouting reports, and grades on every player in the minor league system, including our top 50 prospects. The Prospect Guide has been mentioned as a resource several times on the Pirates’ broadcast, and has been purchased as a source of reference by opposing MLB front office members, opposing scouts, and media members. If it’s a good resource for them, it’s a good resource for you. You can order your Prospect Guide on the products page of the site.