Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Worst Ever? Nah, Just Seems Like It.

Hey, as the Pirates stagger to the end of the 2009 season, one question keeps popping up - no, not when Pedro, Jose, and Brad are gonna hit PNC, but rather is this the saddest of all the sad-sack teams ever put on a field by Pittsburgh?

Ultimately, wins and losses will determine that. The all-time record for futility is held by Guy Becker's 1890 Alleghenies, who finished 23-113. In the modern era, it was Billy Meyer's Rickey-Dink squad of 1952 that bottomed out with a 42-112 slate. The Bucs don't have enough games left to challenge those marks.

Oddly, the worst team during the Streak was Lloyd McClendon's 2001 rag-tags that finished up with a 62-100 record, the only club in those 17 long years to hit the century mark. Now there's a target the 2009 guys can reach. They have 18 games left; if they finish 6-12, they've got it.

We could use another matrix, as the Sabremetric crowd likes to call them. How about if we go old school and compare runs scored per game against runs yielded? This year's edition scores 3.99 runs per game and gives up 4.76, a difference of .77 runs per match.

Ah, not close. Last year's nine was worse, plating 4.54 runs and surrendering 5.46, a .92 spread. And hey, that 2001 bomb squad tallied 4.06 runs and gave up 5.30, a whopping 1.24 difference. 1994's group was almost as bad, scoring 4.09 runs and allowing 5.09.

So we've seen some lousy baseball over the past couple of decades, and certainly not all of it this season.

Heck, that 1952 collection of puppies lost by an average of 1.8 runs, and 1954's band of Buccos was even a little worse, having it handed to them by 1.87 runs per game.

But don't give up hope yet. If we take the baby Buccos' performance from July 1st on, a different picture emerges. So far, their record from the dog days on is 19-48, a .284 winning percentage (The Pirates were 36-41 at the end of June, and had actually outscored their opponents). Multiply that out, and you have a 46-116 record.

They've averaged 3.54 runs per game during that span, and given up 5.31, a 1.77 run per game deficit. It's not quite as bad as some of those 50s' teams, but it's far and away the worst of the past two decades and on the short list of all-time flops.

The worst team ever? Nope, but the past three months have seen some of the most painful baseball the franchise has ever strung together. Temporary inconvenience for permanent improvement, or is the light in the tunnel actually an onrushing train...? Stay tuned.


MarkInDallas said...

The offense has truly been atrocious since the trades. It was pretty bad before that as well. But a small positive sign that I see is the large number of games the team has been ahead in the 6th inning, yet lost.

Last year, after Aug 1, the team collapsed and had a 16-37 record with pretty much the same team that opened the 2009 year pretty decently.

And that realizing that our best position players weren't even on the team then. AMac and Jones came up mid year.

If the Pirates can fix the bullpen for next year, that will help a lot. Right now a lot of guys are out, and that means there are people on the mound that probably shouldn't be.

No promises from me, but I don't think we'll see losing at this same ace next year.

Ron Ieraci said...

Mark, I wish I shared your confidence. Evan Meek is the only major bullpen arm coming back; I think they said Yate's surgery will cost him the 2010 campaign, or most of it, anyway.

They really need to add a bat or three, and as long as they're promoting from within, that's pretty much Pedro and just maybe Jeff Clement.

Still, the one thing that could keep them interesting next year is their starting pitching; it could be decent, at least by Pittsburgh standards.

A warning - the paper just said today that Kerrigan, like Hill, isn't sure if he's coming back. All the Pirates need is yet another pitching coach; it'll be something like the fifth in six years.

But I agree that just settling into regular positions and having a full spring together, along with some OK arms, will make them a better team in 2010. Now if someone can just hit the dang ball...