Three Solid Reasons The Pittsburgh Pirates Will Be Better In 2011
GUEST POST by Joe:
Matt Hunter has a post on Bleacher report titled Ten Reasons Why The Pirates Will Be Worse Than Last Year. Thus, I thought I would look at three reasons the Pirates will be better than last year.
They can’t be any worse. Well, technically 0-162 is the only record you can’t do worse than, but realistically winning less than 57 games is very unlikely. From 2002 to today the following teams won 55 or less. Listed below is the teams record that season and the following year:
In 2002 Tampa Bay and Detroit both won 55 games. In 2003 Tampa Bay won 63, Detroit won 43, yet Detroit rose to 72 wins in 2004.
In 2002 Milwaukee won 56, in 2003 they won 68.
In 2004 Arizona won 51 games, in 2005 they won 77.
In 2005 Kansas City won 56, in 2006 they won 62
Only five teams won 57 or less games and four of them improved the next season. The odds are very high that a team with a low number of wins will improve the next season. How much will they improve? The teams we listed improved by a low of six games to a high of 26 games.
Everybody knows the Steelers win a lot of games with defense, but few baseball fans pay attention to the defense in baseball. Last season the Pirates committed 127 errors, tying Washington for the most in MLB. The MLB average was 101 errors for the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates gave up 866 runs, which was the most in baseball. 784 of those runs were earned, which was second in MLB.
Defense is more than errors, it is also throwing out runners, turning a double play, getting to ball that would otherwise be a hit, throwing to the cutoff man or the right base, and more. So the question is, has the Pirate defense improved?
Chris Snyder’s track record says he is a better defensive catcher than Ryan Doumit. General agreement is that Lyle Overbay is better defensive first baseman than Garrett Jones. Last season was Neil Walker’s first at second base. Reports are that he has been working on his footwork during the offseason. It is close to a given that he will better defensively than he was last season.
Short, third base, left field and center will be manned by the same players so they all should be at least as good if not better. Right field will be better as Jones and Matt Diaz are both better fielders than the players the Pirates put in right last season.
The Pirates overall defense should be better and that alone should bring a few more wins.
Much like the record, the Bucs can’t be worse, can they? Start with defense, better defense makes better pitchers.
As for the staff, we only saw James McDonald for part of the season, but what Pirates fans saw looked pretty good. Just the 68 strikeouts in 71 innings were enough to make him look good.
Ross Ohlendorf had good peripheral stats for a 1-11 pitcher. If he pitches as well this season, Ohlendorf should have four or five more wins at the worst.
Last season was Paul Maholm’s worst in most ways, highest ERA, most hits, lowest strikeout total. At 28 he should be in his prime so odds are he will pitch better this season.
That brings us to the final two starters. Kevin Correia was bad in 2008, good in 2009, bad in 2010. The fifth spot has been up for grabs for several years and no one has jumped up to take it. Very unlikely to be any worse than last season. Overall, the starting pitching should be better but how much better is impossible to predict.
The bullpen should be fine, as the Pirates have two closer arms and the usual cast of characters.
The one area they could be worse is hitting. Last season four young players (Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, and Andrew McCutchen) were the Pirates best hitters. Young players sometimes improve and sometimes regress. Snyder should hit better than he did last season. He will never be a great hitter, but after the Pirates got him he hit around 30 points lower than his lifetime average. Right field should be much better for power. Still, there is no way to predict how the offense will do.
Put everything together and the odds are that the 2011 Pirates will win more than 57 games. How much more? Your guess is as good as mine.