23 Most Impressive Facts About Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Season
By Tom Smith
Sep 22, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielderAndrew McCutchen
(22) hits a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Back in October of 2012, Sports Pickle founder and Pirates fan, DJ Gallo wrote a brilliantly tragic article that defined the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates season. The Gallo article was titled 20 most depressing facts about the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 2012 season.
Remembering the ignominy of the Pirates past is the best way we can appreciate what the Pirates have done this season. So we decided to use Gallo’s post as a reference point to how everything went wrong in the collapse of 2012 has gone right for the Pirates in 2014 and even some of that magical 2013 season.
Sep 14, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third basemanJosh Harrison
(5) reacts while running home to score a run against the Chicago Cubs during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
1. In 2011, the Bucs were tied for the National League Central lead on July 24, 2011. They won just 19 games the rest of the way and dropped 43 closing out the season 24 games out of first place. In 2012, they were alone atop the National League Central on July 18, boasting a 51-40 record. The Pirates then lost 43 of their final 71 games. The MLB standings showed the Pirates a mind-numbing 18 games out of first.
In 2012 and 2013, the Pirates cruised to a record of of 94-68 and with four remaining games in 2014, the team has gone 86-72.
2. In 2012, the Pirates were 16 games over .500 on August 8. Then the ballclub orchestrated the greatest collapse in Major League Baseball history dating back to the 1800s. In 2013, the Pirates jumped out to a phenomenal hot start that even got Jeff Locke into the All-Star game and hung on for a Wild Card berth. In 2014, the Pirates saved their best for the end of the season and ruled in September winning 15 of the last 19 games, with four to go.
3. The 2012 Pirates motto was exactly what the team didn’t do- ‘Finish.’ The teams motto for 2014 was descriptively fantastic- ‘Now.’
4. The Pirates clinched the losing season in 2012 by getting no hit. The 2014 Pirates team ranks in the top three in the National League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Despite some interesting circumstances, all these Pirates did was get on base, hit, slug, score runs, win games, shower, repeat.
5. The 2012 Pirates clinched their 20th consecutive losing season on Fan Appreciation Day. On Fan Appreciation Day in 2014, the Pirates fittingly put a dagger in the heart of the tumbling Milwaukee Brewers.
6. After two consecutive trips to the playoffs, the 82nd loss in 2012 seems like it will be the last losing season in Pirates franchise history. The loss happened when the Bucs bullpen who had been 69-0 when leading after eight innings, blew a ninth inning lead. The 2014 Pirates bullpen was a weakness throughout the season–until September when they finished off every game in an NL-best 23-9 stretch that clinched a postseason berth.
7. In 2012, the Pirates started a seven game losing streak by making seven errors against the Cubs. The team went on to make 112 errors that season. The 2013 club made 106 errors. In 2014, the Pirates have made 108 which was the second most in baseball. Of course, the big culprit was third baseman Pedro Alvarez who single-handedly had 25.
8. On July 24, 2012 the Pirates traded for Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez. The Astros went on to have a better record than the Pirates did over the last two months of the season. Wandy made the starting rotation in 2014 and it went badly . The 2014 rotation was able to get just 8 wins in their first 55 games. And then Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano were placed on the DL. The Bucs answered by eating the millions owed to Rodriguez and the injuries to Liriano and Cole by summoning Jeff Locke and Vance Worley from AAA. Both flourished as back of the rotations starters on a pitching staff that induced way more ground balls along with more weaker than averagely hit ground balls than any.
9. On Aug. 17, 2012 the Pirates sent out playoff ticket instructions to season ticket holders. The Pirates went 13-30 from the day that playoff ticket information started showing up in mailboxes. On Aug. 19, 2014, the Pirates sent out playoff ticket instructions to season ticket holders. That day the Bucs suffered their biggest whipping of the season losing to the Atlanta Braves 11-3. The team then put together an amazing stretch of baseball where they ran off 22 wins against just nine losses.
10. In 2012, Josh Harrison was just another guy. In 2014, Josh Harrison was the guy.
11. In 2012, Neil Walker had a solid season, but Walker broke out in 2014. The Pittsburgh Kid flexed his offensive muscles putting him among the best second baseman in baseball.
12. In 2012, Jason Grilli had 32 holds. In 2013, Grilli surged as the Bucs closer with 32 saves. In 2014, Jason Grilli authored a narcissistic book and backed it up by becoming a pyromaniac in his 20 innings of work. The Pirates traded him to the Los Angeles Angels. Mark Melancon became the closer and has more than 30 saves despite being the setup guy for two months of the year.
Andrew McCutchen enjoys a cigar after Pirates clinch.
13. In 2012, the Pirates pitchers hit just 45 opposing batters. In 2014, the Pirates lead baseball with 86 hit batsmen, 19 more than the closest other team. The pitching staff doesn’t have a 15 game winner, just a deep rotation that pitched well enough for the Bucs offense to score one-more run than the bad guys.
14. In their rookie seasons back in 2012, Jordy Mercer hit .210 Starling Marte hit .257. Both players have came to life in the 2014 season after slow starts. Mercer is the best offensive shortstop in numerous categories and Marte is in the mix with the best OPS in Major League Baseball since the All-Star break during which he hit at a .352 clip with five games to go.
15. The Pirates threw out 11 percent of base runners in 2012–just 19 runners. In 2014, Russell Martin has already thrown out 28 runners.
16. The Pirates bench was non-existent in 2012 on a thinner than a wafer Pirates roster. In 2014, the Pirates lead Major League Baseball in pinch hit rib eyes and are second with 59 pinch hits.
17. In 2012, the Pirates had a team OPS of .699. In 2014, the Pirates are currently sixth in baseball with a .699.
18. In 2012, the Pirates had a September schedule that was ideal for a playoff contender with 17 games against the Astros, Cubs and Mets. They went 6-11 in those games. In 2014, the Pirates destroyed non-contenders down the stretch.
19. In 2012, the Pirates were more than 10 games ahead of the Brewers and still managed to finish behind them in the standings. In 2014, the Brewers cruised through the season atop the NL Central. About a month before the season ended the Brew Crew had a 93% chance of making the postseason. The team fell apart down the stretch to finish behind the Pirates in the playoff chase. The Braves also suffered a similar collapse in 2014.
20. In 2012, the Pirates had zero triple plays. In 2014, the Pirates had one. And it was awesome.
21. The wins in 2013 and 2014 are the most since the powerful teams of the early 1990’s. The Pirates are headed back to the postseason for the second straight year matching teams that did it in 1970-71, 1971-72, 1974-75, 1990-91 and 1991-92.
22. In 2012, Andrew McCutchen lost the batting title as the team faded–on Aug. 3 he was hitting .373 and his closest competitor was Buster Posey whose average was .325. Cutch lost the NL batting crown to Posey by nine points.
In 2013, Andrew McCutchen was the NL MVP. In 2014, Andrew McCutchen broke his rib because he swings so damn hard. Most thought he would fade again, but Cutch has put the team on his back. The injury only fueled the reigning MVP as Cutch hit .319, with a .555 slugging and 170 wRC+. Cutch hit 25 bombs and was the leader of an explosive offense that’s among the best in baseball and leads the NL in on base percentage. The team total base differential is the best in the league in 2014 compared to ninth in 2012.
23. The 2014 secret weapon of destruction John Holdzkom is a story that’s too impossible to even believe. The end.
A hat tip to the Stats to Sporting Charts.com