The Pirates Love Their Fans – And Wrigley Field

August 28, 2010

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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.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan @40Tech
    Aug 29, 2010 @ 21:14:29

    I wouldn’t hold my breath on the Pirates. Did you see the report on Deadspin about the leaked financial statements of a few teams (Pirates are making more money than some teams that are trying to compete)?


  2. kosmo
    Aug 29, 2010 @ 21:43:12

    Well, at least the guy they drafted this year wasn’t a lesser talent drafted just because he was cheap – as has been the case in previous years.

    With baseball’s profit sharing, it’s common for the teams at the very bottom to do OK financially. Set the payroll low enough, and it’s a virtual certainty.


  3. Martin Kelly
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 11:40:35

    I am a pirates fan, and back in the 70’s they boasted that their entire roaster was less expensive than the Yankee outfield. Whether this was true or not doesn’t really matter, they still put out a quality product. Ever since they sent Chuck Tanner to the Braves, they have been more concerned with cost than profit. The home town support is finally draining as for the first time the fans are buying less product (less quantity and less value even with the increase in price). With the current managment structure, I would guess that they will respond with an even cheaper roster, or maybe turn on the lights only when it is really dark. Day games only anyone? Sell the jumbotron?


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