At some point during the broadcast of this afternoon’s Mets/Pirates games, the Mets talking heads were rightly pointing out just how fruitless the Pirates attempts at scoring have been in 2012. One stat that they tossed out was the ridiculously bad K/BB ratio that this club has. It rests at better than 4:1. That’s bad. Historically bad.
Strikeouts don’t bother me so long as they come with a decent measure of on base ability and power (in other words I’d be happy with Adam Dunn in his prime). The Pirates whiff, but don’t get on base via a free pass and they don’t slug. That’s a terrible package.
Off to baseball-reference.com rushed I this evening to pull the K/BB for each team Major League team going back to the beginning of time. The data actually goes back to the start of the NL and even the American Association. I’m not going to use that data because it is skewed by the fact that no one had a car or had even flown in an airplane yet. Okay, that’s not what skews it. What skews it is that they were still messing with how many balls and strikes consisted of a base on balls or a whiff. Plus at some point in the 1880s, the rule makers finally stopped players from calling for a high or low pitch. Imagine that.
Anyway, the Pirates are on pace to have the all-time worst ever K/BB ratio. They aren’t going to barely break the record. This is truly Beamon-esque. They are going to smash it to oblivion. This is Cy Young’s 511 wins. This is Ty Cobb’s .367 career batting average. If they keep this pace, the record will never be broken. Well, it could be broken in 2013 if the same core of players is brought back. So, here are the 10 worst K/BB ratios along with the final records of the team in that season in going back to 1901 when the American League was established.
1968 New York Mets – 3.17 K/BB finished 73-89
2009 San Francisco Giants – 2.95 K/BB finished 88-74
2011 Seattle Mariners – 2.94 K/BB finished 67-95
2011 Houston Astros – 2.90 K/BB finished 56-106
1965 New York Mets – 2.88 K/BB finished 50-112
2001 Milwaukee Brewers – 2.87 K/BB finished 68-94
2002 Detroit Tigers – 2.85 K/BB finished 55-106
1966 St. Louis Cardinals – 2.83 K/BB finished 83-79
2011 Chicago Cubs – 2.83 K/BB finished 71-91
2011 Washington Nationals 2.81 K/BB finished 80-81
Crazy people will look at this and make the case that the Mets won the series in 1969, so why not the Pirates? The closest thing this team has to Tom Seaver is James McDonald and I’d settle for a career like the one Jerry Koosman had for him. Of their top ten pitchers in terms of innings pitched in 1969, only one – Cal Koonce – posted a below league average ERA+. They got crazy-good production from part-time players and players acquired during the season (Art Shamsky and Donn Clendenon). Plus, other than rookie 3B Wayne Garrett, none of the hitters had a terrible year with the stick.
Crazy people who don’t remember the 1969 Mets will instead point to the 2012 Washington Nationals and make similar claims. Give me Steven Strasburg. Give me Bryce Harper. Their pitching staff has been, like the 1969 Mets, exceptional in nine of the top ten spots. The Nationals offense in 2012 has been better than I expected it to be. Yet, I don’ t see the Pirates offense turning a corner in a similar way for 2013.
So, I find no hope in these numbers. Only despair.