There were so many reasons that the Pittsburgh Pirates were winners last year. But one key aspect to their winning season was the fact that no one team dominated them. Their worst record against any team was 2-4, which happened against the Rockies and Dodgers.
In the years leading up to the 2013 season, there was one team that always dominated the Pirates: the Milwaukee Brewers. Whether it was at home, or in Miller Park, the Pirates could never beat Milwaukee. From 2007-2012, the Pirates combined for a 24-69 record against Milwaukee, posting a losing season every year during that stretch. But just like almost every other team last year, the Pirates managed to beat the Brewers.
That’s not the case this year. The Pirates are currently 2-8 against Milwaukee. Their season record is 17-23. A .500 record against the Brewers would have also resulted in a .500 record so far for the team this year. A performance like last year would have the Pirates above .500.
Last year the Pirates were a team that got the best of almost every other team. There was no team that dominated them. They were legitimate contenders and one of the best teams in the league. This year they’ve gone 2-8 against Milwaukee, and have also gone 2-5 against Cincinnati. Outside of their record against the Brewers, the Pirates are a .500 team this year. The Brewers are looking like legitimate contenders so far this year.
You don’t need me to tell you this, and you don’t need simple analysis of the record against the Brewers to tell you this either: the Pirates aren’t legitimate contenders this year. At best, they’re a team that could battle for a Wild Card spot — one of the next tier teams behind the true contenders.
If there’s any consolation to all of this, it’s that the Pirates have been .500 against the rest of the teams in the league. And while they’re 2-8 against Milwaukee, the losses haven’t been in the 20-0 variety of old. The eight losses against Milwaukee this year have been by a combined 14 runs. That’s an average of just under two runs per loss. Four of those losses have been one run games. So while the Brewers are the better team, the Pirates aren’t exactly getting blown away here.
But let’s say the Pirates are just struggling against the Brewers, and aren’t going to be as bad against every other team. They’ve still only got a .500 record against other teams this year. They now have 122 games remaining, including nine games against the Brewers. They still need to win at a .566 rate the rest of the season to get to 86 wins and try to sneak into the Wild Card game. The Pirates went 6-3 before this recent series against Milwaukee. They need two more similar runs to get to .500. Then they need two more of those runs, plus .500 ball the rest of the season, to get to 86 wins.
It’s not impossible, but it is improbable. The good thing is that they don’t see Milwaukee again for a few weeks, followed by a long stretch where they don’t see them until the middle of August. So can the Pirates up their game a bit against the other teams in the league? Or have the Brewers put them in a hole that is too deep to climb out of?
Links and Notes