It’s late August, and the Pittsburgh Pirates have clinched another losing season – the 18th year in a row that they’ll wind up with more losses than wins.  At the time that I’m writing this, their record stands at 43-89, and they are strong contenders to be awarded the top pick in the 2011 draft (given to the team with the worst overall record).  The Pirates are a team with a rich history – Honus Wagner, Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell – and it saddens me to see them turn into a mere shell of a baseball team.  The Pirates have gone the direction of putting the cheapest possible team on the field, trading away any player with even a modicum of talent.  This strategy has yielded the expected results.

If you dig down a bit, things start to get a bit more interesting.  The Pirates are 46 games below .500 for the season, but their home record is a relatively respectable 30-36.  That’s not great, but it’s not awful, either.  While most teams play a bit better at home, the home/road differential of the Pirates is quite astounding.  In contrast to their respectable home record, their road record is just 13-48 – a winning percentage that is just above 20%.  This year’s record is an exaggeration of the trend in recent years – the Pirates have largely tread water at home and gotten killed on the road.

The Pirates have an overall winning record against just 4 teams this year.  They are 4-3 against my Rockies, 4-2 against the Phillies, and 2-1 against the Indians.  The fourth team against which the Pirates have a winning record are the division rival Chicago Cubs.  The Pirates have gone 9-3 against the Cubs, given up just 31 runs in those 12 games – an average of just 2.58 runs per game.

I know quite a few Cubs fans, and this is a source of great embarrassment for them.  The Cubs are having a very disappointing year overall, but nobody should lose 75% of their games to the Pirates.  Not only have the Pirates had great success against the Cubs at home, they have also had their number within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field – holding a 4-2 record in Chicago’s home park.  The Pirates set their road-high of 10 runs scored against the Cubs, and also recorded one of their two road shutouts against Chicago. 

To put this in perspective, let’s take a closer look at the rest of the Pirates road wins.  They have two wins against the Rockies, two against the Brewers, and single wins against the Diamondbacks, Reds, Dodgers, Phillies, and Giants.  That’s it.  If you disregard the games against the Cubs, the Pirates are just 9-46 on the road – a winning percentage of just 16.4%.  Their wins against the Cubs account for fully 30% of their road wins.

When the Nationals decided to call up Stephen Strasburg, his first game was “coincidentally” against the Pirates.  Or, more likely, an astute baseball move to boost the confidence of Strasburg with an easy win.  After all, even the lowly Nationals were strong favorites to win at home against the Pirates.

I look forward to the day when the Pirates franchise once again becomes relevant, rather than a laughingstock.  I’m not a fan of the team, but their current state is bad for baseball.  In the meanwhile, I urge you to go to the ballpark the next time your team faces the Pirates.  There’s an 84% chance your team will win – unless your team is the Cubs.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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