Recent History Suggests the Slow Offensive Start has Doomed this Club

Is anyone here not at the breaking point when it comes to this offense? In almost any meaningful way, this team is in the bottom third of any offensive metric. This is a historically bad showing for this team thus far. The club is averaging less than three runs per game. The team has never, ever, ever scored fewer than 3.0 runs per contest in a full season. The team has not scored fewer than 3.5 runs per game since the 1952 Rickey Dinks season. Not in the 1985 George Hendrick season. Not in the 1960s when the run environment was much lower.

The hope is that the guys who have struggled will return to their normal level of play and the few who have played well will bring it up a couple notches. Is that realistic? Does that actually happen? The short answer is no. It has rarely happened in recent history and the talent level on this club doesn’t give me much hope of it happening for the 2012 Buccos. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

I did some simple ciphering. I looked at the April runs per game data for every MLB team going back to 2007 (data from mlb.com) and took the bottom five teams. Then I looked at the final data at baseball-reference.com for each of those seasons. I had a couple of questions.

1. How often do teams who struggle in the early going actually put it together to wind up with a better than average offense? The answer is just once over the past five seasons. The 2008 Twins came out of the gate with the 26th best offense in Show through April. But they finished fourth when the dust settled. How did they do it? They got great production from both Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Denard Span emerged (he wasn’t a regular in April). They wound up hitting .305 with runners in scoring position as a team for the whole season, a mark that lead the Majors. No team has been above .300 with RISP since.

2. How many games do teams in this predicament wind up winning? Which teams, if any, finished above .500? Which teams, if any, made the playoffs? The 25 teams posted an average of 73 wins over the course of the season. Teams that were above the break even mark were the 2011 Giants, the 2009 Braves, the 2009 Giants and the 2008 Twins. None of these teams made the playoffs. We already talked about the Twins season in 2008. What about the Giants and Braves. San Fran and Atlanta finished at #2 and #3 in the Big Leagues in ERA in 2009. The Giants were #2 again last year. The offense didn’t propel them over .500. The success of those clubs belonged mainly to the hurlers.

So, can the Pirates break out and surprise people over the final 80% of the season? Call me a cynic, but I wouldn’t bet on it. To do it they need one (or hopefully more) of the following three things to happen:

1. Don’t waste any base runners and lead the league in batting average with RISP

2. Have a dominant pitching staff (currently 3rd in the Majors in ERA – please keep it up!)

3. Have someone unexpectedly begin producing – a minor leaguer comes up and mashes or a Big Leaguer plays above his head for the rest of the year

 

Here is the raw data for anyone who is interested. I list the team, the spot in runs per game in the Majors after April, the same stat but for the whole season and finally how many games they won that year.

2011

San Francisco – 26th, 29th, 86 wins

Pittsburgh – 27th, 27th, 72 wins

Oakland – 28th, 21st, 74 wins

Minnesota – 29th, 25th, 63 wins

San Diego – 30th, 28th, 71 wins

 

2010

Seattle – 26th, 30th, 61 wins

Pittsburgh – 27th, 29th, 57 wins

Cleveland – 28th, 26th, 69 wins

Baltimore – 29th, 27th, 66 wins

Houston – 30th, 28th, 76 wins

 

2009

Atlanta – 26th, 17th, 86 wins

San Francisco – 27th, 26th, 88 wins

Arizona – 28th, 20th, 70 wins

Cincinnati – 29th, 24th, 78 wins

Houston – 30th, 27th, 74 wins

 

2008

Minnesota – 26th, 4th, 88 wins

Kansas City – 27th, 25th, 75 wins

Washington – 28th, 28th, 59 wins

San Francisco – 29th, 29th, 72 wins

San Diego – 30th, 30th, 63 wins

 

2007

Kansas City – 26th, 27th, 69 wins

Oakland – 27th, 19th, 76 wins

Pittsburgh – 28th, 23rd, 68 wins

St. Louis – 29th, 22nd, 78 wins

Washington – 30th, 30th, 73 wins

 

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  • Pirate Captain

    Pirates are below league average in BABIP, and they’ve gone up against the best pitching the NL has to offer. Too early to hit the panic button

    • RandyLinville

      Thanks for the comment. I’m attempting to inject some realism into the optimism. The goal is to make the post-season, right? Or at least play meaningful games in September and finish over .500. Based on recent history, odds are 0% for the playoffs and less than 20% for 82 wins or more. I’m moving past the excuses. BABIP is a smoke screen for deeper issues (not getting on base via BB, among other things).

      Bottom five in the NL in BABIP heading into Sunday followed by their runs per game:
      Cincinnati – .283 BABIP, 3.73 runs/game
      San Diego – .281 BABIP, 3.15 runs/game
      Milwaukee – .275 BABIP, 4.21 runs/game
      Miami – .272 BABIP, 3.64 runs/game
      Pittsburgh – .271 BABIP, 2.85 runs/game

      So, other than San Diego, who has the worst home park for offense in the league, the other four teams with a low BABIP are averaging 0.75 runs per game or more than Pittsburgh. How would anyone explain that? My answer is a simple one – the offense is no good. Even the Padres are nearly 1/3 of a run better per game.

      The starting pitching excuse also rings hollow to me. The Pirates have faced the top five staffs in the NL (top five in ERA). But they have also faced three of the five worst.

    • Lee Young

      I’m rooting for us to be the East Coast version of the Giants….:)

      • Lee Young

        ’09 & ’11 versions, that is.

        .