Morning Report: Putting This Season Into Historical Perspective

The Pittsburgh Pirates played their 118th game on Wednesday night, moving to 71-47 on the season. As one of the best teams in baseball right now, I thought I’d look how they compared to some of the best clubs in franchise history after 118 decisions, starting with the 1901 NL champs and working up to the 2014 club. This covers every team that made the playoffs, as well as the two NL champs before the World Series existed(though the did play postseason games before 1903). I also included the best team not to make the playoffs based on wins and winning percentage.

The 2015 club currently has a .602 winning percentage, ranking them as the 16th best in franchise history, though the other totals are obviously over a full season so a lot can change. Of the 15 better teams, five of them didn’t make the playoffs, but those were all from over 100 years ago, back when one team from each league went to the postseason. For the teams list below, I went with the team record after 118 decisions, since 118 games for some includes ties.

The 1901 team was 74-44 after 119 games and went 16-5 the rest of the way. They played a shorter schedule during these first three years mentioned here, then 154 game schedules the next three years listed below.

In 1902, they had the best season in franchise history. They were 88-30 through 121 games and 15-6 to finish out the year, winning the NL crown by 27.5 games.

The 1903 team went to the first modern World Series. They went 81-37 in 119 games and 10-12 the rest of the way. They had some injuries and rested some players for the postseason, so the losing record wasn’t indicative of a late-season slide.

In 1909 they were 86-32 through 120 games, then finished 24-10 to win a franchise record 110 games.

Sixteen years later they returned to the WS for the first time, starting the season with a 72-46 record in 118 games. That club finished 23-12.

It only took two more years to return to the Series, going 68-50 through 120 games during the 1927 season. They trailed the division by two games at that point, tied with the Cardinals and behind the Cubs. The Pirates finished 26-10 to take the crown by 1.5 games.

The next World Series team was 33 years later during that magical 1960 season. They were 73-45 through 119 games and finished 22-14, basically maintaining the same lead during that stretch, with a 6.5 game lead at the start and 7.0 at the end.

In 1970, we enter the first playoff era team with more than just the World Series in the postseason. They went 65-53 in 118 games and finished 24-20, winning the division by five games despite being tied after game 143 ended.

In 1971 they took home their fourth World Series title and they had a 71-47 record through 118. They finished seven games out in front, going 26-18 in their last 44 games. This is the only playoff team with the same record through 118 decisions as the current team.

The 1972 club was 74-44 in 118 games and finished 22-15, winning their division by 11 games.

The most surprising team on the list, the 1974 squad was 59-59 after 118 games. They had to go 29-15 to win by 1.5 games.

The following year they were 67-51, then finished 25-19 to win by 6.5 games.

The last World Series winner went 69-49 in 119 games. They played an extra game that year, finishing with a 29-15 record.

The 1990 club matched the 1979 club through 118 decisions, going 69-49. They weren’t quite as strong to finish up the year, ending 26-18.

In 1991 they were 70-48, then they ended up 28-16, winning the NL East by 14 games

The 1992 team was 66-52, up two games at the time. They finished 30-12, adding another seven games to their lead.

Getting into the wild card era, we have the 2013 club. They went 70-48 through 118 and 24-20 the rest of the way.

Last year they were only 63-55, worst record in 40 years for one of their playoff teams. They finished 25-19 the rest of the way.

What a tough year 1908 must have been with 98 wins and a .636 winning percentage, but no World Series. They were 71-47 that year, finished an amazing 27-9 and lost first place on the last day of the season.

Just to make it more comparable to now, I added the best playoff-era team not to make it to the playoffs. The 1977 team was 69-49 through 118, and they finished 27-17, still five games back.

As shown by the list, the last team above that had a better record through 118 decisions than the current team was the 1972 club.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by five games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a four game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 6-4 in their last ten games. They have a three game lead in the division.

Altoona is 4-6 in their last ten games and they are in third place, 6.5 games back of Bowie and they trail by two games in the wild card.

Bradenton is 5-5 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by four games in the standings.

West Virginia is 8-2 in their last ten games and they have a seven game lead in the division.

Morgantown is 4-6 in their last ten games. They are 3.5 games back in the wild card chase.

The Bristol Pirates are 6-4 in their last ten games. They are three games back in the division.

GCL Pirates are 2-8 in their last ten games. They are five games back in the standings, with 11 games left on the schedule.

The DSL Pirates have been eliminated from the postseason.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates defeated the Diamondbacks by a 4-1 score on Wednesday night. They now take on the San Francisco Giants in a four-game series. Charlie Morton will start for the Pirates, while Jake Peavy gets the ball for the Giants. Morton gave up two earned runs over 6.1 innings in his last start. Peavy has a 4.18 ERA in 56 innings. In his last start, he gave up five runs in 5.2 innings

In the minors, the Indianapolis starter for today was originally listed as Radhames Liz, but Vance Worley is now the probable starter. Worley has made one AAA start, giving up two runs in five innings. Stephen Tarpley and Steven Brault both start today on the day Travis Snider joins Indianapolis. Tarpley threw eight shutout innings in his last start, while Brault allowed one run over seven innings in his last outing. Fifth round draft pick Brandon Waddell makes his third start as a pro. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (71-47) vs Giants (65-55) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (4.36 ERA, 28:63 BB/SO, 88.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (73-52) @ Charlotte (65-60) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Vance Worley (3.60 ERA, 1:2 BB/SO, 5.0 IP)

AA: Altoona (64-59) vs Portland (46-77) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Steven Brault (2.63 ERA, 15:64 BB/SO, 61.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (64-58, 32-20 second half) vs Ft Myers (68-55) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Felipe Gonzalez (3.66 ERA, 24:64 BB/SO, 83.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (73-48, 36-16 second half) vs Lakewood (62-58) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Stephen Tarpley (2.14 ERA, 20:87 BB/SO, 92.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (28-29) vs Auburn (26-29) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Brandon Waddell (1.29 ERA, 1:7 BB/SO, 7.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (25-25) @ Princeton (31-24) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: TBD

GCL: Pirates (27-22) vs  Tigers (29-19) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (28-41) vs Cubs (42-27) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are highlights from Tuesday night in Indianapolis

Recent Transactions

8/19: Josh Wall added to Pirates. Pedro Florimon designated for assignment.

8/18: Edwin Espinal placed on disabled list. Junior Sosa activated from Bradenton disabled list.

8/18: Adam Miller placed on disabled list. Jeremy Bleich activated from temporary inactive list.

8/16: Jose Salazar retired.

8/16: Pirates sign Frank Herrmann. Jeremy Bleich placed on temporary inactive list.

8/16: Rob Scahill sent to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/14: Edward Salcedo traded to Royals. Robert Stock assigned to Altoona.

8/13: Angel Sanchez placed on disabled list. Andy Vasquez sent to Altoona.

8/11: Rob Scahill sent to Altoona on rehab.

8/11: Wilfredo Boscan sent outright to Indianapolis. Jeff Inman placed on disabled list.

8/11: Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

8/9: Adam Miller promoted to Indianapolis.

8/9: Cole Tucker placed on disabled list. Erik Forgione sent to Morgantown.

8/8: Kevin Newman and Edgar Santana promoted to West Virginia.

8/8: Junior Sosa placed on disabled list. Isaac Sanchez activated from Bradenton disabled list.

8/7: Vance Worley sent outright to Indianapolis.

8/7: Deolis Guerra returned to Pirates from Indians and placed on disabled list. Wilfredo Boscan designated for assignment.

8/6: Rob Scahill assigned to GCL on rehab.

This Date in Pirates History

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades of note. We start with the trades and the first happened in 1913, involving two key members from the 1909 club. The Pirates traded away third baseman Bobby Byrne and pitcher Howie Camnitz for third baseman Cozy Dolan and cash. Before 1913, Camnitz had a 110-67 record for the Pirates, but he was 6-17 at the time of the trade. Byrne was covered yesterday, when he was acquired almost exactly four years before he was traded away. This deal was more of a financial deal for the Pirates, who got rid of two higher salaries and got money back.

On this date in 1981, the Pirates and Expos swapped first baseman, with John Milner going to Montreal and Willie Montanez coming back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates ended up getting Milner back in 1982, after they released Montanez and Milner was released by Montreal.

Former players born on this date include:

Al Lopez, Hall of Fame manager, who was also an All-Star catcher. He played seven seasons in Pittsburgh from 1940 until 1946, making the All-Star team in 1941. Lopez is better known for his managerial career, but his 52.2% caught stealing rate behind the plate is the fourth best all-time. His 1918 games caught stood as a record for over 40 years.

Matt Hague, The Hit Collector collected 16 hits for the 2012 Pirates and none for the 2014 squad.

Bull Smith, outfielder for the 1904 Pirates. Played 13 late season games as a rookie for the Pirates that 1904 season, then played just two more Major League games in his career, one in 1906 and another five years later.

Robert Gibson, pitcher for the 1890 Alleghenys. He was 0-3, 17.25 in three starts for the team and in one game, he couldn’t finish the outing even with the Alleghenys putting 17 runs on the board for him. They ended up losing 23-17 that day.

  • I never knew Bob Gibson pitched for us!!!!!

    • Read the bio in the link, you commented on the original article from 2012. You might need a refresher(insert smiley face here)

  • Why are they skipping over Liz? It makes no sense, unless he is injured?

    • No word yet, it was only last night/afternoon that they switched them. Might be going into relief, might just be a chance to get him a rest. We should find out soon. They didn’t have any starters listed after today’s game until this morning, so last night was too soon to ask about the move

  • John or Tim,
    Do we now have an opening on the 40 man roster?
    How do you think that will that be used?

    • 40-man is/was full, Florimon was dropped to add Wall to the 40-man. Wall won’t stick around long, so someone in AAA will take his spot in September. Snider, Liz, Hart, etc

  • What about the 78 team, who had that amazing final push to cut a double digit deficit to the Phillies on August 1, to four games and a final showdown in Pittsburgh, the last weekend of the season? One of my fondest memories as a Pirate fan ever.

    • They finished strong, but they were 56-62 so they didn’t qualify as a good team up to 118 games or a playoff team or the best team that didn’t make it, so I didn’t include them

      • Thanks John, and I don’t care, good team or not, that was a glorious sixty days of baseball!

        • Definitely an exciting finish, one of the best in team history. It just didn’t qualify for this article, it would be better for a best case scenario if they started off slow

      • After a loss on August 12th of that year, the Bucs were 51-61. Then finished by going 37-12 over the final 49 games, even with a 5-game losing streak thrown in.

    • Didn’t Randy Lerch hit a grand slam against us in that series?

      • yes on Saturday’s game, after an incredible Friday night double header win, in which one game was decided on a balk and the other a pop fly that dropped between Bake McBride and Gary Maddox! Three Rivers was packed to the gills that night. Stan Savran himself said that was the loudest crowd he ever heard at Three Rivers, Steeler playoff games included! It was glorious!