The 2024 Pittsburgh Pirates must avoid this if they want to succeed even a bit next season
The Pittsburgh Pirates need to be competitive in 2024. It shouldn’t just be a possibility, the Pirates must do everything in their power to make it a must. Off-season additions, both trade and free agency and getting the new kids developed are absolute musts. But there is one thing that the 2024 Pirates need to avoid doing that the 2023 Pirates did.
The Pirates started the year on such a high note with an amazing April. The start of May was sort of a harsh wake-up call, but going into mid-June, they were playing what many expected of them. From May 14th to June 12th, they had a 13-11. Their first 64 games saw them go 34-30. They also did pretty well in their final 67 games, going 35-32. But what happened in between mid-June and late July is what the Pirates need to avoid next year.
That’s the massive low point they had in June and July. From June 13th up though July 18th, a period of just over a month, the Pirates went 7-24. It was the worst record in baseball during this stretch, as they had the most L’s and fewest W’s throughout this period in time.
This basically killed their season. That was a .226 winning percentage in that time. If the Pirates had played like they did in 2021-2022 during this stretch, and only managed a .380 winning percentage, it would have been the difference between going 7-24, and 12-19. That might not seem like much, they would have finished .500 on the dot.
Heck, if they had treaded water in this stretch, and played okay, but not great ball, let’s say a .450 winning percentage (which for reference is 73 wins in a 162 game season), they would have gone 14-17, ended the year 83-79, tied with the Chicago Cubs, and just a game out of the Wild Card spot. That was the difference maker: playing horribly instead of just bad in mid-June through mid-July.
You can’t predict an 11-game losing streak, or going 2-12 to start July. But those kinds of losing streaks can’t happen if you’re looking to compete for a playoff spot. Murphy’s Law really took over during these two months, and not only did everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong, it all happened at the same time. Of course, the Pirates crawled out of it and ended the year on a respectable note.
There’s not really any specific answer to avoid something like this, other than to play better. I don’t think the 2024 Pirates will have such a low period as the 2023 Pirates did, but there are some risk management things that Pirates can do to avoid something like this from happening. The first is being more aggressive with prospect call-ups. When a prospect is ready and a guy is struggling in his place, call him up. When Nick Gonzales has an .843 OPS at Triple-A in May through late June, call him up, and let him take playing time away from Rodolfo Castro, who had a .577 OPS at the same time.
In the end, the one thing the Pirates need to avoid, just don't have such an awful streak. Losing streaks are going to happen to any and all teams. But you cannot go 7-24 at any point. That is a season killer unless you play like all-stars from there on out. But it's hard to be that bad for that long, especially with the kind of roster the Pirates look to have going into 2024.