Remember how last summer felt?
In all my years as a Pirates fan, it was probably the most fun that I have ever had following this team. After 100 games, the Bucs were sitting pretty in 1st place at 53-47. The reason? The pitching.
The Pirates entire starting rotation was experiencing success that no one had ever expected. Jeff Karstens was among the league leaders in ERA. Kevin Correia was an All-Star. Charlie Morton harnessed his #ElectricStuff. It was pretty incredible to finally have a staff full of competent starting pitching.
The problem with last year is that, even with the success, something just did not add up. Everyone was expecting a sudden flop with the pitching, it was just a matter of time. The peripheral stats, which can be used to predict future outcomes just did not match what the results had shown over the first part of the season. And in the final two months of the year, the pitching regressed to where the statistics showed it “should” be at.
The 2012 Pirates are 7th in the National League in ERA, slightly above league average. The team’s offense is horrendous. In fact, it is historically awful and if continues at the same pace, could set a franchise record for worst offense ever.
Let’s address the offense first. Just like last year when the pitching regressed, this year’s offense will do the same. This offense isn’t great, but it isn’t historically bad. Rod Barajas, Clint Barmes, and Jose Tabata are not negative WAR (Wins Above Replacement) players. Neil Walker will get hits other than singles. They will get better. It is not a matter of if, but when.
As for the pitching, is this a situation like last year where they are not as good as they are pitching? If we look at this team’s xFIP, which is a saber metric stat that attempts to take luck out of the equation of pitching. It takes what a pitcher is in control of (strikeouts, walks, home runs) and comes up with a number on the ERA scale. Historically, xFIP has been an excellent tool to predict future results. The Pirates’ xFIP this season is 3.65, which is 4th in the National League.
So what kind of conclusion can we draw from this?
First off, the Pirates offense is not good, but it is better than it is. Secondly, and most importantly, the Pirates pitching staff is as good as its results are showing.
The team currently sits at 14-16 after 30 games, just two games under .500, with MLB’s worst offense. If the pitching holds up, which it has a much better chance of doing so this year than last year, the 2012 Pirates could finish up what the 2011 Pirates could not do. They have a better chance of finishing over that cursed .500 mark. And who knows? With the extra wild card this year, they could even do more.