More Pirate Myth Busting And A Comeback Win

I attempted earlier this week to dispel the myth surrounding the Pirates disappointing 2016 season.  Today I want to tackle another misconception that continues to make the conversational rounds on a regular basis.

The Pirates need everything to go perfectly in order to win under their plan.

That is patently false and here’s the evidence to prove as much.

Wild Card Game - San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates


Three key players went down at various parts of the season.  Wandy Rodriguez, Starling Marte and Jason Grilli.

Gerrit Cole, Jose Tabata and Mark Melancon/Tony Watson to the rescue.

Wandy Rodriguez, the veteran lefthander was clipping along with a 6-3 record, a 3.47 ERA and a 1.117 WHIP when he left his June 5th start after just 14 pitches due to pain in his pitching arm.  Rodriguez was done for the season.

The Pirates reached into the farm system and promoted top prospect Gerrit Cole who made his initial start June 11th, beating the Giants 8-2 at PNC Park.  Cole finished the season 10-7 with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP.

Starling Marte injured his hand during a 4-2 August loss to the Diamondbacks while in the midst of hitting .282 with a .343 OBP.  He was also third in the NL with 35 stolen bases.

In stepped the much maligned Jose Tabata who hit .318 in that month and then .315 in September with OPS marks of .851 and .844.


Pirates closer Jason Grilli left the team’s 6-5 win over the Nationals July 22nd when he experienced tightness in his right forearm.  Grill and his 30 saves wouldn’t see the field again until September 4th.

Mark Melancon stepped in and up to record 16 saves the rest of the way and Tony Watson stepped into the eighth inning setup role.


Pedro Alvarez was coming off a 36 home run 2013 season which tied for the league league with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt.   That was the follow up ot a 30 homer season in 2012.  It looked as if the former first round pick was developing into that middle of the order bat the Pirates thought him to be.


Then he forgot how to throw the ball across the infield.

Rather than relive that nightmare, let’s just say that the Pirates turned to super utility man Josh Harrison, who stepped in at third base and delivered a breakout .315/.347/.490/.837 while manning that spot for 68 games.  Included in that mix was a .327 average in September when the Pirates went 17-9, securing the first Wild Card slot.

The Pirates rotation, plagued by a combination of injury and ineffectiveness at times, emplyed seven pitchers who made at least ten starts.  Included in that mix was Vance Worley who in 17 starts compiled a 2.85 ERA to go with a 1.211 WHIP.

Gregory Polanco was expected to take the reins in right field after posting a AAA line of .325/.385/.495/.880.  However, after a torrid start he saw his average dip to to .240 by the end of August to go with a paltry .657 OPS.

No Polanco?  No problem.


In stepped Travis Snider who put up a line of .273/.377/.500/.877 in September along with three home runs.


Jordy Mercer was lost to the team for five weeks after an infield collision with Brewers outfielder Carlos Gomez.   Clint Hurdle used a combination of Jung Ho Kang, Sean Rodriguez and Pedro Florimon to cover the at bats at third and short.  Rodriguez in particular shined with an August line of .349/.391/.419/.810.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates

Of course Jung Ho Kang was lost for the season after suffering a severe knee injury in a collision with th Cubs Chris Coghlin.  After dropping the next four games, the team regrouped to win eleven of the final fifteen to hold off the Cubs and host their third straught Wild Card game.

So, obviously things didn’t go as planned or anything close to it for those three consecutive playoff teams.  But the team had the depth to carry through and carry the day.


Pretty big come from behind win for the Pirates last night as the beat the Padres 10-6.  Combined with losses by the Cubs and Cardinals, they continue to hang around and are 4.5 games back.,lock_state=final,game_tab=wrap,game=491733




138 thoughts on “More Pirate Myth Busting And A Comeback Win

  1. Ok, at the risk of being annoying, this is the third time this week I post this, NH, send Hudson packing, the guy’s a bum and has pitched this way his entire career.


  2. The Glass Man is rapidly becoming a folk hero in the likes of a Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyon down in Indianapolis:
    Tyler Glasnow 6.0 6 2 2 1 7 1.61 96 pitches, 66 strikes
    Johnny Barbato has come on to try and save it for T-Glass.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked at Glasnows AAA numbers, comparing last yr with this yr:
      H/9 is about the same, Walks a bit down. Ks are a bit up. So thats all good. However, hes given up twice as many HR. Is that a concern?

      During his stint in the Majors this yr, you could see he was taking a bit off his pitches to increase his control. and that resulted in disastrous results.
      Is he doing the same thing at AAA, but getting away with it?


  3. Mets hit 3 homers in the first inning. Dodgers just shrug, hit 5 of their own (5 different players), and shut the Mets out the rest of the way.


  4. With a Met on first in the 8th, Tony Watson comes in and strikes out Nimmo and Granderson and gets Walker to tap one a foot in front of the catcher.


  5. Can’t see anything bad about the SROD deal. Even if he doesn’t hit, he’s a better glove and quicker than Jaso.


  6. Stephen J. Nesbitt @stephenjnesbitt
    The Pirates also claimed George Kontos from the Giants and DFA’d Danny Ortiz and Jhan Marinez.
    11:50 AM · Aug 5, 2017 from Pittsburgh, PA


      1. Sub 3 ERA for the last 3 years prior to this year with bags around .210 and WHIPs around 1. This year his BABIP is over .300 whereas the last 3 years it was .267, .219, .250. Low risk move with the potential to be a decent pen arm for the next couple years


                1. You could be right, but I thought I was pleasantly surprised with how he handled himself at SS. I mean he’s no Barmes but he should be a huge step up from frazier/Moroff


        1. 2018 Contract details $5,750,000

          Does not seem cheap for SRod’s likely role, in my opinion.

          What are you looking for the Pirates to do? Sign Manny Machado to a long-term contract?


            1. OK. I have not been around many adolescents lately, so my acuity for sarcasm if off a bit.

              Seem like a pretty low-risk/low-cost move to me.


  7. Cutch had an OPS of 1.193 and 1.101 for June/July respectively. That is the first time since 2012 that his OPS exceeded 1.000 for two consecutive calendar months. In May/June/July of 2012 he exceeded 1.000 for three consecutive months.


    1. Got to imagine he becomes part of a third base platoon with Freese.

      With both “Glass-mania” and Kingham beginning to pitch well at Indy, maybe there be some life in these Buccos after all …


  8. An analogy if I might on the concept of margin of error.

    I used to travel a ton for business. This led to Many calculations of what time I had to leave for the airport. From downtown Chicago to OHare can take anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. Security lines can take anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes.

    So if I had a 6pm flight, what time do I leave? That’s the heart of rush hour. If I allow say 35 minutes for traffic and 20 minutes for security and leave at 4:30, I’m expecting to be at my gate by 5:30. But in that scenario I’m leaving little or no margin of error. History suggests max traffic and longer lines at that time of day. There’s a good chance I miss my flight.

    Maybe I get lucky. Maybe traffic is usually light or I coast through security and just make my flight. That could happen here or there. More often than not, I miss the plane.

    I once had a coworker miss a flight because he said traffic was really bad. But we were coming from the same general area and I made it. The reason; I assumed based on years of commuting that traffic would be awful at 7:30am on a Monday and left much earlier. He assumed it would be modest and missed the plane.

    A 162 game season is like a long commute to the airport. There will be bumps in the road along the way. Traffic is unpredictable (i.e. How good is your Division/league). The Dodgers, Yankees and Mets leave for the airport at 3:30. They have maximum margin of error so that even in the worst case scenario, they make the flight. The Pirates leave at 4:30. They can survive a a pocket of traffic but an accident in the left lane and it’s all over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Pirates certainly have a smaller margin of error. I don’t believe that Don said otherwise. The fact that they have room for error dispels the myth that everything has to go perfectly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A smaller margin of error is the best way to describe it. More things have to go right for them to succeed.

        Perfection is too high a standard.


      2. My point is there is a difference between margin of error and perfection.

        There were numerous times that I left later for the airport than I wanted to but still made my flight. There were various issues I had to overcome but not significant enough to be late.

        On one occasion in Atlanta we left about 30 minutes later than we calculated. With decent traffic we might have made it. But we hit horrendous traffic and missed the flight. Had we left on time, we still hit horrendous traffic but we make our plane.

        Margin of error. The Pirates business model gives them far less. That does not mean everything must go perfect but a lot less can go wrong.


  9. At what point does Martavis Bryant’s continued absence from training camp activities becomes a bigger issue?

    Given that he was conditionally reinstated two months ago, it’s hard not to draw one of two conclusions:

    1) The NFL is needlessly dragging its feet on this for reasons I can only speculate

    2) There is some further issue with Bryant behind the scenes that we are not yet aware of.

    Now #2 could simply be procedural, meaning failure to dot some I’s or cross some T’s in his rehab. It’s not necessarily a drug relapse. But if you’ve missed as much football as Bryant has, one would think he and the Steelers would be motivated to do everything to the letter in insuring his return.

    It’s too early in camp to blow a gasket on this but at some point if he’s still not playing, you really have to wonder what’s the deal.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Don very well done. I see where people who disagree are using faulty logic to refute. You presented using logic and facts. The people disagreeing are using their views and opinions. It’s an argument that can’t be won


  11. Don

    “Patently false”?


    Not sure what we are tying to “prove” as true or false but however you want to state the hypothesis, the Pirates need a lot of things to go their way in order to make the playoffs. SO does every team by the way.

    The issue for the Pirates and their strategy is having adequate back up players. You brought up two examples where backups came in/were acquired/whatever and the Pirates did not miss a beat.

    2016 and 2017 were two years where the backups played like…..backups and mission not accomplished.

    Your hypothesis proved to be “patently false” for 2015 and 2014. Your “patently false” hypothesis for 2016 and what appears to be 2017 has been dis-proven.

    I could write the exact opposite view to the above using 2016 and 2017 as my evidence.


      1. The results had us, what, 25 games out of first place and 6 games from the wild card?

        Actually, I liked both of those pickups at the time they occurred and for the money.
        I thought they were brilliant bench pickups.

        They simply were not good enough to lift the rest of the holes.

        Furthermore Bob, my point was addressing the strategy and its reliance of a lot of good fortune.

        I am not addressing this tactic or that tactic.


        1. You are placing absurd expectations on the bench. Bench players are expected to make contributions. They are not expected to pick up the slack of a slumping superstar. When that happens the fault is with the superstar, not the reserves.

          There were multiple reasons why the Pirates had a losing record in 2016. The bench was not one of them. The bench was outstanding — Rodriguez, Joyce, Freese, Frazier.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. I have no idea as to what you are talking about Bob

            Respectfully, Was this response meant for me?

            I absolutely agreed with you that Joyce and Srod were brilliant pickups and for the money to boot.

            I never once said anything specifically bad about the bench. Nothing.

            The topic at hand, as I understand it is there is a myth surrounding and I quote is “The Pirates need everything to go perfectly in order to win under their plan”
            Don used 2013 and 2014 as recent examples of dispelling the myth
            I used 2016 and 2017 as two recent examples of perpetuating the “myth”


            1. Here’s what I am talking about. You wrote:

              “2016 and 2017 were two years where the backups played like…..backups and mission not accomplished.”

              I believe that stating the backups played like backup is a negative comment since the backups did not play like backups. The four I mentioned played well above backup level. You were suggesting the backups were the reason the ‘mission’ was not accomplished. I would strenuously disagree with that.


              1. ” You were suggesting the backups were the reason the ‘mission’ was not accomplished. ”

                This was not my point at all.

                We are once again several “indents” deep and mixing up the main topic of conversation.



    1. I never said, nor would I ever say, that they are guaranteed success every season.

      My point was to show that even in those playoff years where some have claimed that everything went the Pirates way and that’s how they were successful. it was simply not the case.

      They overcame several obstacles in all three seasons. Thus, the statement that everything needs to go perfectly for them to win is patently false.


      1. I think the statement that is often made is that the Pirates have very little room for error with their chosen strategy and this is then sometimes taken to the extreme that eventually turns into “the Pirates must be perfect in everything they do” or something to that effect.

        The Pirates have very little room for error and need a lot to go right in order for them to make meaningful post season runs.

        The Pirate overcame obstacles in 2013 and 2014 — the evidence is there to show that.
        The Pirates did not overcome similar obstacles in 2016 and what looks to be 2017
        The evidence shows that as well.

        I would say that the jury is still out on the verdict.


          1. Oh
            Got it

            Sustainability to me is the key
            (In fact i thought that was a parallel concept and maybe in fact a synonym for ” being competitive every year”)

            I totally agree with you that there will be times when the Pirates have more good fortune than bad fortune and they have repeats of 2013 and 2014.

            I, however, see this as a very lousy sustainable strategy.


        1. Absolutely correct Mark.

          Debates in the internet world are almost always dragged to extremes. It’s not always the fault of those debating. It’s the reality of having a few paragraphs memorialized in writing without additional context. People tend to react to the extreme end of the opinion, the original poster defends it and suddenly the argument stretches beyond its true context.

          To that end, there seems to be a belief that those who question Pirate ownership see Bob Nutting as some evil overlord feverishly working to keep the Bucs from winning. And at least in my case, that’s not true.

          I believe he wants to win and has empowered his people to do what they think necessary to make it happen. But I also believe he holds the line on payroll to an extreme that options are limited.

          This results in having less margin for error. It does not mean the Bucs can’t handle an injury or bad break. It means they can handle a lot less than most.


  12. Although the Pirates have had some bad breaks this season the one thing that did go their way is the fact that the Cubs have significantly under performed compared to last year. If they had played anything like 2016 the Pirates would have
    been out of the playoff race long ago.


  13. The fallacy of this article is that everything did go right, in a sense. Just like in ’60, when Groat went down and Ducky Schofield replaced him and hit .333, when injuries happen, other players need to step up.

    In 2013 Gerrit Cole stepped up. Who has stepped up to replace Kang and Marte? Freese to an extent. Who stepped.

    From 2013-2015, players, for the most part, stepped up when other players’ productions didn’t. I don’t have time to go through each instance, but when you win as many games as we did, players are either playing to or exceeding their ability and the complimentary parts are filling in as needed.


    1. Good point.

      Look at the 1979 and 1980 Pirates. They had almost no turnover, but the 1979 Pirates went 105-67 and the 1980 team went 83-79. Except for Jim Bibby, no regular had a better 1980 than 1979. Every other starter either regressed, suffered injury, or both.

      One could argue that “everything went perfectly” in 1979 and didn’t in 1980.

      Gee, I think I just torpedoed my entire argument at the bottom of the thread. lol


      1. If I recall currently several Pirates on the 1979 team had career years or, as in the case of Stargell, had their best season in several years. Sometimes this just happens and enables a good team to become a championship team.


        1. That is, indeed the case.

          In their book, “When the Bucs Won it All”, Bill Ranier and David Fanoli had a chapter that laid out every single player’s 1979 season stats alongside their 1980 season stats, and had a one or two paragraph explanation for why one was so good and the other tailed off.

          Moreno, Foli, Ott, Nicosia and Garner all had career seasons in 1979 that they never duplicated. Stargell had an MVP season and was injured after 60 or so games in ’80. Parker was just starting his decline in ’79 but still put up great numbers. Not so much in ’80. Milner and Robinson pretty much gave way to Easler and Lacy in left field so that was basically a wash…although 1B production suffered by having Milner/Robinson have to make up for Stargell and both having bad years.

          Tekulve was great in ’79 and awful in ’80. Most of the other pitchers that had good ’79s had average ’80s…except Bibby who was money every start, and took over as the ace.


    1. Henry: I think the fact you suggest Benoit would be a replacement for Nicasio clearly explains why he’s on the roster. Huntington did not trust his young pitchers who were doing well in lesser situations and wanted a veteran like Benoit to take Watson’s spot. And I’m not saying I agree with the strategy.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. No depth means playing role players and not starters or guys capable of going out there everyday, that’s what happened this year. Frazier looked like we weren’t going to miss a beat as half of the infield/outfield shortcomings, that didn’t work out, Osuna is a decent fourth outfielder, Jaso, well, ugh, so here we are.

    So close, yet so far, a flip of our record with the Reds and the Pirates are in first place at 59-50, so close, yet so far.


            1. It’s amazing. Outfielders hit cutoff men. Baserunners take the extra base when they’re supposed to. Kids bunt to the correct side of the infield on sacrifices.

              I get more enjoyment out of watching the LLWS than I do the MLB playoffs when the Pirates aren’t in it….which means almost every year.


            2. Oh, and the players LISTEN TO THEIR COACHES.

              A novel idea in 2017.

              Plus, everyone from the players to the coaches to the umpires does it for free.


      1. That’s right Fish, the difference and the reason NE, Belichick/Brady will leave a lasting legacy beyond SB titles. They beat the lesser teams week in and week out like no other team. It’s amazing what a teams record can look like by splitting with the good teams and beating up on teams with worse records than your own.


        1. NE, under Belichick, also has an uncanny and consistently amazing track record of “next man up” for lack of a better phrase.

          They lose a key name to free agency — no problem — a new, sometimes no name guy comes in and excels and in the process, NE does not miss a beat.

          I think this, more than anything, is going to be their (or his — Belichick) lasting legacy.


          1. That’s a good point Mark, what team wins it all when Gronk, your biggest weapon, and arguably the biggest weapon in the league is watching from the sidelines.


  15. The Pirates need everything to go perfectly in order to win under their plan.

    I always took it as “The Pirates need everything to go perfectly in order to win the division and be a serious World Series contender under their plan.”

    They don’t need everything to go perfectly just to win.


    1. ^^ this.

      They don’t need everything tp go perfectly under their plan to slide into a 5th seed some years.

      They do if they want to finish first and win 3 post season series.


        1. Ask the Dodgers. Or the Red Sox from a few years ago. They had injuries but ‘next man upped’ it to the championship.

          Very teams have to have everything go perfectly to win a championship…because things never go perfectly.

          Teams that aren’t well enough constructed will slide into a WC game and lose. Teams that are will persevere, replace the damaged parts with equal parts and win anyway.


          1. To that I would say that 2 of the last 3 world series champions were wild card teams. Also, please point out exactly what overwhelming adversity the Royals, Giants or Cubs faced on their march to the crown? All three teams had a lot go very perfect for them to get where they got.

            That isn’t to say that their teams weren’t well built and we’ll coached, but all three teams got career years from more than one starting pitcher on their staffs, all three had players who managed to make very clutch performances at opportune times, all three were faced with little to no severe injury problems to their starting 8, top 3 pitchers, or bullpens.

            I’ll stans by my claim that in baseball, a team has to have a lot go it’s way to win a world series. It’s not all luck, of course, but there’s a healthy sldose of it come playoff time.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I will concede that the 2015 Royals and 2014 Giants weren’t tbe best teams in baseball. The 2016 Cubs were wire to wire the best team in baseball They had issues; Jason Heyward off the top of my head. The Indians won the pennant with their rotation on the shelf.

              Just like this year’s Dodgers and Astros. Kershaw and half of the Astros rotation are on the shelf. The Dodgers got Darvish to plug the hole. Theg didn’t just shrug, save a few bucks, and hope a AAA pitcher could pick up the slack.


              1. We’ll have to wait to see of either of those teams win it all. But we’ve seen this script play out before with the Dodgers themselves, and the Nationals and others.


                1. I guess that’s true, even for a team on a 114-115 win pace like the Dodgers. The Mariners once won 116 games and lost in the ALDS, so it’s possible.

                  But this Dodger team has all the looks of last year’s Cubs, the Yankee team that went 114-48 and won everything, the 1986 Mets, the 1984 Tigers, and the ’75-’76 Big Red Machine.

                  If they don’t at least win a NL Pennant, I’ll be shocked, to say the very least.


            2. Pat

              The Royals, Indians and Cubs put themselves in a position to win.
              That is how they “won”

              Sure they needed luck — any team that wins any final trophy in any sport in any part of the world needs luck. The Pens had luck on their side for example — no one would argue that.

              The Pirates need a ton of good fortune every year because of the strategy they have chosen — not dissin it, just stating a fact. They are not a “complete team” meaning they hardly ever have depth. DOn cited two years where they had more good fortune that normal — great for us. It is not, however, a sustaining strategy.

              The Cubs/Indians/Royals had guys that had career years — a trademark of all championship teams in any sport.

              What they did differently than the Pirates was go and build a team that has as many “contingency plans” as possible. FOr example: Cubs can lose a Schwarber or a Heyward and still more than compete.

              Jim Valvano used to say “Put yourself in a position to win”

              FOr every 2014 and 2015, there are many 2016’s and 2017’s for the Pirates where they failed to put themselves into a position to win

              And it looks like 2018 will not be much better — unless we get a ton of good fortune.


              1. I get it Mark, but I mean, aren’t some of us just overlooking how much bad luck this team had this year?

                Marte was gone 1/2 the year. Kang gone the while season, Taillon gone about 1.5 months, Cervelli injured off and on most the year. Those are huge pieces on this team. If it had only been 2 of those things, maybe the Pirates aren’t 4.5 back, but rather 2 or 3 in the lead.

                But then you add to that the fact that Glassnow stunk, Cole has been shaky, Nova has lost most of his edge the past month plus….

                I mean, there are so many issues that have befallen this team. They aren’t excuses, just facts. And we compare that to the Cubs not being able to rely on Schwaber and Heywood? I mean, seriously, I don’t think there’s a comparrison. I just dont.


                  1. How exactly did that end up happening, anyway?

                    It’s like a switch went off, lasted a season and a third, and then magically switched back on again.

                    I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything like it.


                1. And, I forgot to mention just how bad Tony Watson and Dan Hudson were this year. I mean, seriously, the list could continue forever


                2. Pat

                  Agree with your post 100%
                  All of these bad things have happened.

                  However, these things are exacerbated on team like the Pirates who have a much thinner margin for error for when these bad things happen than say the Cubs, using your example.

                  The Pirates are not alone in this issue. And it is not the end of the world as we know it. When you have a Cervelli and you are surprised as to how much time he has missed — I think you are asking for trouble right off the bat. When you expect Glasnow (or whoever) to come up and save the day, you are asking for trouble given the low percentage of 1st round picks that can contribute to an MLB team. A streak of good fortune however changes all this.

                  My point is this: The Pirates have a razor thin margin for error in order to “recover” from bad things which may befallen them. 2014 and 2013 — it worked out. 2016 and what looks to be 2017 — it has/will not work out.

                  I am afraid that there will be more 2016’s than 2014’s given the chosen strategy and to expect that to be reversed is wishing on a star.


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